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Edited and selected by Basil de Sclincourt, 


An unpublished correspondence (1881-1885) between 
Vincent van Gogh and Anton Ridder van Rappard. 

Edited by J, Middleton Marry* Two Volumes. 

TO C. R. LESLIE, R.A., (1826-1837) 

Edited by Peter Leslie and with an introduction 
by Sir Charles Holmes* 


Edited by Prof* Sir Herbert Grierson. To be 

completed in Twelve Volumes, 

Stephen MacKenna at forty. Fromanoilpaintii^byAmyDn^cker. ! 










Constable and Company Ltd. 


The Macmillan Company 
of Canada, Limited 













LETTERS ---....* 


ING BY AMY DRUCKER - Frontispiece 







T*HE first time 1 saw Stephen MacKenna was in the office 
of the Freeman's Journal^ in one of the shabby dens in 
which a leader-writer confined himself between n p.m. 
and 2 a.m. He entered the den and was startled to see 
me waiting there ; he did not know who I was, and it 
seemed that I bore a striking resemblance to a friend of his 
who was dead to Lionel Johnson. He got over his sur- 
prise, and I told him my name and mentioned that Arthur 
Griffith had told me I ought to step in to see him when I 
happened to be in the Freeman office at night : Stephen 
MacKcnna had only recently come back to Dublin, and I 
was then doing an occasional literary article for the 

As I walked home after my talk with him I felt that 
Stephen MacKenna was one of the most extraordinary 
persons I had ever met extraordinary, but winning. 
The trait that mainly impressed me was his eloquence. 
[ don't mean to say that he had burst into oratory or had 
declaimed anything. But his was a speech that was ready 
and apt, original and witty ; his mind was like a violin 
string, his voice vivacious and many-cadenced, often 
taking on the mounting enunciation of the Gaelic speaker* 
Yet this was not a public man : he was diffident, with a 
courtesy that respected the personality of others* I sup- 
pose he was about forty at the time, with blue-black hair, 
an odd face that showed marked check-bones, an open 
mouth covered with a moustache* and quickly-moving 
dark eyes a face that had rapid changes of expression* 
I thought that perhaps he was an aloof and fitful man 
who, because he was ao natively Irish, could be a indeed 
he was gay and companionable* 

After that first meeting I used oftca to see him at night 
in the office, He wrote leadens, as I have said not on 



political matters but on " off" subjects. He would have 
liked to treat these " off " subjects with wit and erudition : 
his ideal was the free personal comment of the Parisian 
journalist. But needless to say he got little opportunity to 
write thus in a journal that was given its tone by*the 
Archbishop of Dublin. Often at two o'clock in the 
morning when we had written our leaders (for I began to 
do an occasional one) we would walk to Donnybrook 
together through the deserted streets. I said to him once, 
" It is worth while being out at this time to hear the 
curlews that are flying over the city." He looked up in 
amazement. " I thought the curlew was purely literary 
invented by Yeats : * O Curlew, cry no more into the 
air ! * Do you mean to say that these are curlews I have 
been hearing ? " This gave me the notion that Stephen 
MacKenna paid little attention to the sights and sounds 
of nature. 

He had come back to Dublin from America, Greece, 
Paris. He had had a short but very successful career as a 
special correspondent under Pulitzer* But before that 
success he had been in low water in New York, I recall 
an encounter with a member of an oath-bound society 
whose affiliation in America was with the Clan-na-Gael 
He told me how once at a meeting of the organisation he 
had got into conversation with a remarkable stranger. 
After the meeting they walked along a couple of streets 
together, and my informant invited the other to have a 
glass of beer and a sandwich in a cafiS, When they had 
done that the stranger said, " I don't mind telling you now 
that this is the first bite I've had in two days. 5 ' His name 
was Stephen MacKenna. 

Stephen lived in New York amongst a Greek population 
florists, waiters and the like and his experience at this 
time deepened his Hellenism. The Greek which he had 
learned at school hadn't meant very much to him. But in 
the Greco-Turkish war he had come to know and love the 
Greek vernacular it was his chief gain from a disappoint- 


ing adventure. I asked him once about the excitements 
of warfare (for in those days war was still romantic). He 
said, " It was like waiting for a train at Mullingar." 

It was with Arthur Griffith and Seumas O'Sullivan 
that I first went to the MacKenna house, 5 Seaview Ter- 
race, Donnybrook. Saturday was their at-home evening : 
Stephen did not have to write his leader that night. Of 
course he stayed up as late as if he had been in the office ; 
and next morning he would be roused earlier than his 
wont by his Irish-speaking boy knocking at his door and 
announcing " Aifreann D$" so he would have to get up to 
attend ten o'clock mass. That first evening, I remember, 
Mrs, MacKenna played for us : she was an accomplished 
pianist, and for her the drawback to living in Dublin was 
the infrequency of concerts there. She played some of 
MacDowelFs pieces ; it was the first time I had heard 
anything of this American composer's. The talk that 
night was mainly about Gaelic League activities. For the 
MacKenna house in those days was the headquarters of a 
branch of the Gaelic League, actually if not literally. 
There the enthusiasts of the movement met on a regular 
afternoon Thursday, I think : urban and world affairs 
were discussed in Gaelic ; words were discovered or made 
up ; if one came short of a word one was permitted to use 
a French or a German one, but English was under geis. 
Mrs. MacKenna, American-born and French-educated, 
was absorbed no less than MacKenna himself in these 
revival activities. 

This is perhaps the place to say something about Marie 
MacKenna. Slender, sallow-faced, with a wide mouth 
and dark eyes, dressed in bright colours, with an odd spon- 
taneity in speech and movement, she stood out in any 
group of Dublin women* At that time she went about 
with a huge hound, a Great Dane that she had given a 
Gaelic name to" Lochlannach." One evening 1 sat 
beside her at a concert and we began our conversation, as 
was the fashion, in elementary Gaelic* Suddenly she 


burst into tears, saying something in a whisper that 
seemed to me to be out of a saga. And no wonder it 
seemed that, for what she said was the very words of a 
saga " Lochlannach is dead." 

Stephen had always been a strong Irish nationalist. 
With a great deal of diffidence, as one admitting a dark 
secret, he once spoke of his father who had been an 
officer in the British Army and wrote adventure stories 
which had been popular. But like many of the old Cath- 
olic and propertied families, his had kept contacts with the 
services of the European states. Was it an uncle or a 
grand-uncle of his who had been the Austrian governor of 
an Italian city and had forgotten his English ? It must 
have been a grand-uncle. I remember Stephen describing 
for Marie the speech of this old military gentleman, 
Stephen had joined the remnants of the old Fenian 
organization and had hoped to have a part in an insurrec- 
tion, At this period his nationalism was concentrated 
round the - work of the Gaelic League. He and Mrs. 
MacICenna, a newly married pair, had sat together of 
nights on the benches of a county council school in London 
learning Gaelic. Now, back in Dublin, he was saddened 
to find that the intellectual leaders men like W. B. Yeats 
and Arthur Griffith took only a perfunctory interest in 
the language revival. To him the language movement 
meant the whole of Irish nationalism : that some day 
there would be no response to a Gaelic sentence, that the 
name Cuchulain would awaken no echo in any breast 
this was to him the most dire of possibilities. He regarded 
every other movement in Ireland as irrelevant beside the 
language one : Home Rule, Women's Franchise what 
use would they be if Gaeldom ceased to live ? He became 
mournful when he spoke of that peril, and his intimates 
were ashamed that they had any other interest except the 
language one. 

At MacKenna's evenings I would meet "A. E./ 9 occasion- 
ally Arthur Griffith, occasionally John Eglinton, occasion- 


ally Arthur Lynch, in the early days John Synge who had 
been a comrade of Stephen's in Paris, Joseph Hone, Rud- 
mose Brown, Osborn Bergin, Thomas Bodkin . The talk was 
the best that could be heard anywhere but how difficult 
it is r to get down the suggestion of good talk ! Stephen 
shrank from personalities or anything approaching gossip, 
so there was never anything malicious or petty tossed 
about on those evenings. He had also a scholarly fastidi- 
ousness that made him turn away from what in the realm of 
ideas was wide of the mark. He was, although he could 
commit himself to action, essentially a scholar, a man who 
could become absorbed in a subject as remote, say, as the 
problem of Aryan words in cuneiform inscriptions ; and 
this scholar's discipline and knowledge gave substance to 
what he said. But he was incapable of saying it pedanti- 
cally or dully : there was passion, wit and grace in every- 
thing he said. Reflectiveness and activism seemed to be 
in conflict in him : there were his remote interests the 
abiding one being Plotinus and there were the swift 
images that came one after the other in his sentences. 

I remember one evening in which there was much gay 
laughter from Stephen. John Eglinton maliciously 
quoted a few things Goethe had said against Catholicism 
and Irish Nationalism. " An Olympian mind ! ": I was 
misled into committing myself to the legend of the Gocth- 
ean wisdom on every subject. Marie MacKcnna had no 
doubts about the profundity of the sage who had talked 
with Ecfcermann, She became very solemn, very recep- 
tive, as Stephen took down the Conversations and opened 
it at random. The page yielded something very much 
like the uplift written by some fashionable prophet for an 
American magazine. Marie MacKenna and I were 
greatly distressed and insisted he should turn to the middle 
pages. He did, and produced something hopelessly banal 
We took the book from him and began our search for the 
passages of shining wisdom. Stephen made us read out 
our selections, and he would laugh and ask us, " Isn't that 


just what we do our best to prevent ourselves from say- 
ing ? " We had to admit it was, after we had gone 
through a hundred pages, each page bespelled so that 
nothing came to our eyes save what might go into the 
last paragraph of a Freeman "off" leader. The " OJym- 
pianness " of Goethe was distasteful to Stephen : he had 
an uneasy feeling that sometime he himself might begin 
to pontificate. 

He would speak of what his heart was set on doing, but 
in an impersonal way. Talking about Plotinus he would 
wonder how much of the obscurity in the Enneads was due 
to the subtlety of the thought and how much to the general 
human idiocy from which philosophers were not immune. 
What passage in his talk do I best remember ? One, I 
think, that brought over to me something of the nobility 
that is in Pindar's odes. He was working on a Gaelic 
version of certain of these, hoping that with the help of 
some Gaelic speaker who had knowledge of traditional 
poetry he might recreate the Greek in Gaelic. He showed 
how the conventionalized passages that are nonsensical in 
English could go magnificently into such a convention- 
alized Gaelic as we find in the " runs " in the longer folk- 
tales, " The best of all things is water " how real and 
how significant that might become in Gaelic ! He went 
on to talk of contrasts in the genius of languages, and gave 
lists of place-names to illustrate them. I remember now 
only one contrasted pair, Verona and Enniskeny : both 
beautiful names, but one like a rich fabric and the other, 
he said, like a coloured rag caught on a hedge for a 
coloured rag on a hedge is beautiful. Then he talked 
about the Greek and Gaelic words for the moon : both 
meant " the Shiner " and could be contrasted with the 
English or French names which are expressive of glamour 
and beaminess. He could speak memorably upon such 

This was a period in Dublin when intellectual contacts 
were easily and happily made. It closed abruptly : Home 


Rule and Carsonism came into the foreground ; the 
Gaelic League branches turned themselves into volunteer 
corps and began to arm and drill. Stephen MacKenna, to 
the grief and distraction of his wife, began to have fits of 
da*ngerous illness. He rallied. But the mood of Dublin 
had now changed, and his with it : more and more, 
though a sick man, he became an activist. The illuminat- 
ing, exciting, delightful evenings in 5 Seaview Terrace 
went amongst the Remembrances of Things Past. Every- 
thing changed even Stephen MacKenna's theological 
beliefs which seemed so well-founded. Yet one thing re- 
mained : his dream of somehow uniting his Hellenism 
and his Gaelicism. On the opening page of his Plotinus 
appears a sentence in Gaelic. It reproduces the most 
noble of all dedications, that of The Annals of the Four 




Stykn MaeKtmts working l/ urn Mid tm% thm 
countries, cd wasfatiw tote ty to m$fo ckangK of occu- 
pation ad ty mtiwal dwgK ifrtsMw, Wkn k &/, k 
kjl hM hk no a/i, chili or liftkngfM ; no near MM, 
w to tafa ! in hstrdn who m chllU hd m kin 
onlj at m towi; anl with tk excefSm of Ik /joy-j 
Journal o ftym of any mUk KograjiM mh> Ht 
left wfod a fcpni In tk Mmir aijfci/fc / tod CT- 
taari fo mm sntfrts&A Ikfati My^ tk kffuL 
Sut wit I Urn tkt ty to apdnt ll&u mc&M in this m t 
I m mm ojwttin unflU g$, jwfafalj in tk ml) 
fort tfMttfmils !i/i,/or wKA rd&Uy littk locmnt&ry 
Mm m Imw&Ut ; ant it mM h too mh to kfa Ik 
MU mm) teg w JiB&, tkt in cmKninjt mM 
irmfrm tk mwi&s o/a jwtf tiwsity ojfoojih I ta 
error oflci job or mi 

One of these, Robert MacKenna, died a few weeks later, 


" Le bonheur n'est pas chose aisee : il est Ires difficile dc le trouver en 
nous et impossible de le trouver ailleurs." CHAMFOIU. 


" I DON'T know anything about the MacKennas, and 
frankly I care less : I abhor all that sort of thing : one of 
the very few things in the Ireland of to-day that really 
pleases me is that cobblers and ploughers are at the top 
and that no one talks, as far as I know, of any social glory 
or birth-ban." So wrote Stephen MacKcnna to a sister- 
in-law in 1924. His pedigree is nevertheless of some 
interest. His father, Captain Stephen Joseph MacKenna, 
had in him the blood of three long-established Irish 
Catholic families the MacKennas, lords of Truagh in the 
county of Monaghan and alleged descendants of" blame- 
less " Enna Ceinnsealach, a fifth-century Irish king ; the 
Taafles of Smarmore Castle, Co, Louth ; and the Aliaga 
Kellys, a dynasty of Dublin merchants who could trace 
their descent through 30 generations from an ancestor 
who fought at Clontarf. He inherited a tradition of 
Ascendancy politics. The captain's father, Theobald 
MacKenna, Q,.C., had been Assistant Undersecretary for 
Ireland, and his brother John was at the time of his death 
secretary to the then Lord-Lieutenant. Among his fore- 
bears was that Theobald MacKenna who published in 
1793 "An Essay on Parliamentary Reform, and on the 
Evils likely to ensue from a Republican Constitution in 
Ireland/ 5 and in 1799 "Constitutional Objections to the 
Government of Ireland by a separate Legislature." 1 

1 Stephen MacKenna had a distaste for this ancestor of his ; but it should 
be mentioned to his credit that he founded a society " for the purpose of 
promoting unanimity among Irishmen, and removing religions prejudice*," 



Captain MacKenna appears to have had qualities not 
wholly explained by this decorous ancestry. Exception- 
ally tall and very goodlooking, with a shock of red hair 
and a voice of singular charm, he was by all accounts a 
man of violent temper, fantastic humour, and volcanic 
changes of mind. As an officer of the 28th Infantry, 
known as the Kinegad Slashers, he displayed such gaiety 
of spirit that on more than one occasion disaster was 
averted only through the exercise of his father's political 
influence. After seeing service in India he finally, upon 
a sudden resolution, took French leave from his regiment 
and offered his sword to Garibaldi. Italy furnished him 
with many adventures, military and other : these he re- 
corded in a singularly candid diary which startled his 
family after his death but is now unhappily lost. Return- 
ing about 1869 to England he married Elizabeth Mary 
Deane, a girl of mixed English and Irish descent, and set 
about perpetuating his name. But his world had changed : 
the mid-Victorian age of respectability had set in ; his 
father was dead, and his mother, a woman of notable 
piety, had stopped his allowance and cut him out of her 
will. Upon the advice of his friend T. P. O'Connor, the 
ex-Slasher had recourse for a livelihood to journalism and 
the composition of romantic fiction for the young tales 
of military adventure in which the narrator is usually a 
gallant but unlucky soldier of fortune, heir to a great 
estate from whose enjoyment his youthful escapades have 
unwarrantably excluded him. So it came about that the 
younger Stephen's earliest memories were of rejected 
manuscripts plumping through the letter-box of the small 
suburban house in Liverpool where his father endeavoured 
to discipline and feed an increasing mob of children. 

In the year 1883, ^c number of his offspring having 
reached ten eight boys and two girls Captain Mac- 
Kenna suddenly died from an attack of the malaria which 
he had contracted in India. Since the ten were almost 
wholly without financial provision, two unmarried sisters 


of the Captain, Miss Katie and Miss Lizzie MacKenna, 
who lived at Ramsgate, undertook the upbringing of two 
of the older boys Stephen, who had been born on the 
1 5th of January, 1872, and Robert, who was by a year or 
two* his junior. They were entrusted at first to " an old 
humbug of a private tutor " ; later Stephen was sent to 
Ratcliffe College, a small Catholic boarding-school in 
Leicestershire, and Robert to St. Joseph's, Mill Hill 

The young Stephen is described by a schoolfellow as 
" a quiet, retiring boy with a round, plump baby-face of 
olive hue that was saved from commonplaceness by beau- 
tiful brown eyes." He was frail and unathletic : " I 
never played any game, was perhaps foolishly dispensed 
as too delicate or at least too pulseless (I have the slowest 
pulse in the world) ; and this means," he wrote near the 
close of his life, " that I have no escape now from thinking 
or brooding." a Physical enterprises were apt to end dis- 
astrously : he went swimming in the river Wreak, had a 
seizure, and was all but drowned ; he took up gymnastics, 
broke an ankle in falling from a trapeze, and limped for 
the rest of his schooldays. In compensation he developed 
a precocious interest in literature and politics. He spent 
his pocket-money on books, in which he had the sort of 
taste that his contemporaries found "queer": one of 
them remembers him surreptitiously reading Boswell's 
Life of Johnson night after night throughout prep. His 
politics too were "queer": in the school debating- 
society which he helped to found he argued passionately 
that the complete independence of Ireland must and 
would be brought to pass within his lifetime an idea as 
foreign to English Catholic thought in the 'eighties as it 
was to the family tradition of the MacKennas. Such a 
boy could hardly be very popular, even if he had not 
added to his offence by a manner that was " reserved and 
somewhat haughty"; but he made one or two friends, 
and his combination of moral courage with a ready and 

to Robert Mac Kenna, January 27, 1931. 


devastating wit appears to have extorted from the rest of 
his schoolfellows a measure of respect there is at any rate 
no record of his having been subjected to more than the 
normal brutalities of a Victorian boarding-school. In the 
class-room he showed linguistic and literary gifts wliich 
impressed his contemporaries : one of them recalls with 
delight after forty-five years his viva voce renderings of the 
Georgics and the Antigone into a crisp and shapely English. 
In mathematics and science he had no interest and made 
no headway : algebra, in particular, he found " not only 
loathsome but even, in principle, unintelligible." * 

It was decided that he should take a classical degree at 
London University. He matriculated in 1889, but 
remained at Ratcliffe for another year to read for hi 
" Intermediate,' 5 nominally the first university examina- 
tion, but one which was often taken before leaving school. 
What happened next may appear odd to those unfamiliar 
with the practical working of the British examination 
system. At this very ordinary pass test the candidate who 
was later to be described by Sir John Squire as " one of 
the greatest prose writers of our time " 2 failed to satisfy 
the examiners in English, which had been his best subject 
at school. The grounds for their dissatisfaction are not 
known. It seems possible that the admirer of Dr. Johnson 
said what he thought about English literature and not 
what his text-books advised him to think. Be that as it 
may, the decision of these examiners was unfortunate : 
almost certainly classical scholarship is to-day the poorer 
for it ; quite certainly it robbed the young MacKcuna of 
a training in method whose absence he felt cruelly in later 

For he declined, or was not permitted, to knock a 
second time at the gate of academic learning. Instead, he 
followed the example of a school friend and the persuasion 
of his aunts, and entered a religious order. His novitiate 
was of brief duration. Within a few months his friend 

l jowiial, February 1908. a tendon Met nay t May 


received a letter from him. " Dear Charles/' it ran, " I 

have left W .* It was the damn * discipline * did it : 

we had to take the beastly thing every morning : I 
couldn't stand it. It wasn't the pain, of course I didn't 
mincf that. It was the absurdity of the thing, the coddo- 
logy of the thing whacking oneself as if one were a lazy 
old donkey ! " So ended the first phase of Stephen 
MacKenna's religious experience. 

It may be supposed that by this time Aunt Lizzie and 
Aunt Katie felt considerable disappointment and some 
twinges of anxiety. Their nephew would not, it seemed, 
become a man of God ; he could not, it appeared, become 
a man of learning : he must become something quickly, 
and if possible something safe. The family was consulted. 
From his mother's people, who had hereditary connections 
with Irish banking, there came an eminently safe sugges- 
tion. It was accepted. A place was found for him in the 
Munster and Leinster Bank, and for the next five or six 
years he occupied a stool in the Dublin branch of that in- 
stitution. It is improbable that he made a good clerk : 
I have never known any man more impatient of routine, 
more careless of everyday detail, or more completely 
innocent in all financial matters than Stephen MacKenna. 
But Irish banks are tolerant. 

For the boy himself they were years of angry discontent, 
He imagined a bitter little epitaph : 


God made him a Man but he died a Bank Clerk. 

The Irish Sea cut him off from brothers and school 
friends : his home was the small house in Rathmines 
where his aunts, " two little Dresden china ladies " now 
verging on middle age, lived henceforth in a genteel 
seclusion. They loved their disappointing nephew, and 
they had his affection to the end of their days : he 
admired not only the old-fashioned prettiness of their 
1 The place of novitiate. 


manners but the essential goodness of their hearts : a 
letter describes one of them in later years making tea for 
a couple of beggars " she stands behind her lace-curtains 
looking down on them and in spirit drinking their tea 
with them as they sit on a dustbin which seems to be* kept 
there in the front garden for that only purpose." 1 But if 
there were kind hearts behind the lace curtains there was 
no play of life there, nor any stir of ideas. 

Nevertheless these years confirmed for MacKenna the 
importance of two discoveries which he had already made 
in his schooldays his Irish nationality, and his gift as a 
translator. He formed the habit of spending Sundays at 
the house of his father's cousins, the Aliaga Kellys ; and 
there he met for the first time people to whom Ireland was 
not a comic appanage of England but a spiritual entity 
in bondage to alien ideas. His response was quick and 
passionate : it was in his nature to feel an immediate 
sympathy for underdogs and for revolutionary policies. 
" There is deep down in me something lawless," he wrote 
later in his journal 2 : " always, whether my mind wills it 
or not, I find myself on the side not of the wecder but of 
the weeds. ... I like wild growth in gardens, and am 
not angry when in nations there is tumult and even 
crime." Fenianism was such a wild growth, and for all 
his English schooling the young Stephen welcomed it. 
But while his mind was fertilised by these strange seeds it 
was also incubating others, whose original implantcrs 
were perhaps the Rosminian Fathers at RatclifFe College, 
Their earliest fruit was an English version of the Imitatio 
Christi, which was published by a Dublin bookseller in 
1896. Of this piece of work he wrote long afterwards, 
" Dipping into it here and there, I see that I made it less 
subtly true to the original and less emotionally rich than 
I had thought : I was only a schoolboy when I did it : I 
still remember the fervour of exultation in which I spent 

1 To Mrs. A. F. Dodds, September is, i$u%. (if. Inter 33, 
June 27, 1907. 


the ten pounds it brought me." 1 The volume does not 
bear the translator's name, which could not, it appears, 
" go into a base layman's rendering of a book so semi- 

Tt is proper to add that not all of the young man's 
evenings were spent in study, meditation, or the society 
of his aunts. In Dublin, as later in London and Paris, his 
exercise and pleasure was to roam the humbler streets, 
listening to the talk of children on the doorstep of a tene- 
ment house or mingling with a Saturday-night shopping 
crowd, merging himself in their life and occasionally 
striking friendship with a man or woman who attracted 
him. One typical story of such an encounter seems to 
belong to this first Dublin period. He had made ac- 
quaintance with a prostitute by the canal bank, and the 
two were walking homeward together when they passed 
the open door of a Catholic church. MacKenna incon- 
sequently 2 suggested that they should drop in and say a 
Hail Mary. " Is it me ? " said the girl, " me to go into 
that place ? Sure the candles that stand and burn there 
before the Blessed Virgin would go black out if the likes 
of me was in it." Her companion went home enraged 
against the Irish puritanism which infected the Church 
with the social taboos of the drawing-room and built so 
dark a mental barrier between sinner and intercessor. 

It was in 1895 or 1896 that Stephen MacKenna decided 
to give his epitaph the lie. His eldest brother, Theobald 
MacKenna, who on his father's death had started life at 
thirteen as a printer's devil, was now a journalist on the 
staff of the Daily Chronicle working hard to pay for the 
schooling of the two youngest brothers, Octavian and 
Myles, and to maintain a home in Brixton for them and 
his mother* The rest of the family were by this time either 

1 Letter to E. R. Debenham, 1913 or 1914. 

2 MacKenna was not at this time, or at any time, addicted to ** slumming,** 
He cultivated the .society of the poor because he liked it, not with the in- 
tention of conferring spiritual benefits. 


dead or dispersed in various parts of the world. With 
Theobald's help Stephen obtained a reporter's job on a 
London newspaper, and he joined the struggling house- 
hold in Brixton, For a year he wrote up fires and street 
accidents and visited the scenes of murders. When r not 
thus employed, he spent his time in the picture galleries, 
in the British Museum, among the book-stalls in the 
Farringdon market, or in long rambles eastward through 
the foreign quarters. Much of his earnings went on books: 
he would eat nothing all day and return home late at 
night, exhausted but triumphant, his arms laden with 
books and books bulging from every pocket. He joined 
the Irish Literary Society and the revolutionary associa- 
tion called Young Ireland, and began to be known as a 
speaker at Fenian gatherings. His schoolboy brother 
Octavian naturally a harsh critic thought poorly of his 
oratory ; but he had, or imagined he had, the compen- 
sating glory of attracting the notice of the police the house 
in Brixton was said to be watched, and for a time he went 
about in the thrilling expectation of arrest. 

He was not arrested ; and he found he did not care for 
reporting. 1 In the winter of 1896-7 he was offered a small 
post as Paris correspondent of an English Catholic journal 
and embraced the chance with joy. His friend Richard 
Best (now Chief Librarian of the Irish National Library), 
whom he had met first at the Irish Literary Society, was 
already established in Paris, and the two young men 
occupied adjacent appartements in the rue d'Assas. Through 
Best and through the branch of Young Ireland which 
Maud Gonne had created, MacKenna soon became inti- 
mate with the small Irish colony. It was an interesting 
group of writers, journalists and conspirators : besides 
Maud Gonne herself, it included the old Fenian, John 
O'Leary, " that flaming, ineffective lover of Ireland and 
of Irish freedom/' a Arthur Lynch (then Paris corrc- 

1 Cf. Journal, September 27, 1907, 

* MacKenna in Irish Statesman, November 3, i<)s8. 


spondent of the Daily Mail] and his wife,, and J. M. 
Synge. 1 

With Synge and with the Lynches the newcomer estab- 
lished a fast friendship. Lynch and MacKenna were men 
of octdly similar stamp : each was a journalist with the 
interests and the gifts of a scholar and the temperament of 
a mediaeval knight errant ; Lynch was presently to fight 
for the freedom of the Boers, as MacKenna for the freedom 
of the Greeks ; they were to die within a few days of each 
other, both of them voluntaiy exiles from the country they 
loved best, and neither was to leave on the world a mark 
proportionate to his ability. Synge and MacKenna on 
the other hand made, in appearance, a strange pair, the 
one shy, silent and morose, the other a born talker ; but 
they had in common an ironic humour, a passionate 
interest in the problem of style, and an unresting curiosity 
about the secrets of religious experience. Of their alliance 
Lynch wrote many years later/ " The man who knew 
Synge best was Stephen MacKenna, and Synge's first 
book bears evident marks of MacKenna's influence, or, as 
I should say perhaps, MacKenna's active help. Stephen 
MacKenna had himself pushed modesty and diffidence to 
a higher extreme than Synge, and we have but the scat- 
tered fragments of one capable of achieving enduring 
fame. Little of his imagination and delicate spirit re- 
mains except the recollection in a few minds of conversa- 
tion, the richest, the most charming, at times the most 
wonderful, I have ever heard." 

MacKenna himself repudiated the suggestion that he 
had given Synge " active help." " We were the most 
intimate of comrades," he wrote, 3 " and talked clays and 
nights through, and mainly on literature and the tech- 
nique of it ; but except for The Aran Isles and his critical 

1 An account of this group and its doings will be found in Bourgeois* 
Jofui Milhnglan Synge and the Iriih Thtahe, p. 20 fl". Of. also Arthur Lynch, 
The Story of my Life, p. 144 fT. 

a Irish Stalewian, October 20, x<)stft (abbreviated here). 

*ibid*> November 3, 


work for some London journal The Speaker, I think I 
never knew what he had on the loom. He often read me 
an isolated sentence from the sheet on his Blick often an 
entire day's work but I never knew where the sentence 
fitted. I did know, curiously, a good deal about his un- 
published work ; I imagine because he never intended it 
for publication. He gave me once an immense wad of his 
verse to read and return ; we never spoke of it ; I have 
wondered what he did with it." In a private letter to 
Lynch of about the same date he remarks, " Synge used 
to get, I remember, very angry when I disliked something 
which he liked ; I think, however, he often accepted the 
adverse judgement, tacitly." 

Both Synge and MacKenna were distressingly hard up. 
" How do those two young men live ? " said an inquisitive 
person. " Oh, Synge lives on what MacKenna lends him, 
and MacKenna lives on what Synge pays him back." 
Synge in fact lived on an annuity of some 40 a year, 
which he endeavoured with little success to supplement 
by free-lance journalism. MacKenna's " Paris Letter " 
brought him fifteen shillings a week ; and to this he 
presently added a cc Rome Letter " which he compiled in 
the rue d'Assas out of newspaper cuttings and a fertile 
imagination. It was not enough. Synge is reported as 
looking " ghastly " at this time from under-nourishment, 
and MacKenna used to say that he owed to Lynch (who 
would ask the two to supper as often as he decently could) 
" his almost weekly rescue from starvation." It seems 
likely that both men laid in these years the foundations of 
future ill-health. 

But, poor as he was, MacKenna was not too poor to 
help the destitute. Prowling one night on the Seine em- 
bankment he fell into talk with one of the homeless men 
who sleep on the benches there. His new acquaintance 
proved to be an Armenian doctor, by name Elmassian, 
whose socialist activities had made him a refugee. Mac- 
Kenna loved men who preferred their conscience to their 


comfort : he took the Armenian home, gave him bed and 
board, and assisted him to pursue his studies at the 
Pasteur Institute. The refugee became in the end a dis- 
tinguished bacteriologist ; he became also a fast friend 
both of MacKenna and of Synge, and contributed some 
interesting material to Bourgeois' life of the latter. He 
died in 1913 as director of the Bacteriological Institute of 

In the spring of 1897 war broke out between Greece 
and Turkey. The sympathies of the world were strongly 
on the side of the Greeks. One evening in April, Mac- 
Kenna came with Synge to the Cafe Harcourt to dine with 
the Lynches, Maud Gonne, and some other Irish folk. 
The party were sitting out of doors with their glasses, 
engaged in conspuer Us Turcs, when a mob of students, 
similarly engaged, swept past them down the Boulevard 
St. Michel, closely followed by the police, who were laying 
about them with their batons. To escape their blows the 
Irish party jumped on chairs and tables and pressed tight 
against the plate-glass windows of the cafe. Synge, less 
agile or more obstinate than the rest, received a heavy 
stroke on the head ; but with characteristic reticence he 
let fall no word on the matter, and it was only when 
MacKenna had taken him home that he was discovered 
to be bleeding profusely. 1 

It seems likely that MacKcnna's philhellenism was 
intensified, however illogically, by this happening. Was 
not the Holy Land of all humanists being overrun by the 
barbarian, just as Synge had been bludgeoned by a Paris 
policeman ? And was not he, Stephen MacKenna, the 
son of that Slasher who had fought for Garibaldi ? When 
he learned that Garibaldi's son had raised a new legion 
of red-shirts to serve the sacred cause on Greek soil, he 
knew that he must do as his father had done. A day or 
two after the cafd incident he appeared in Best's flat and 

1 Mrs. Lynch is my authority for this incident, of which Bourgeois gives 
a rather different account. 


announced his immediate departure for Athens as a 
member of a privately organised company of volunteers. 1 
His adventures in Greece, and on the journey back to 
Paris, are the subject of a number of pleasing but mutually 
contradictory stories. What follows may be taken as at 
least relatively accurate. It is based on an account which 
MacKenna contributed to an Irish paper soon after his 
return, 2 supplemented here and there by the recollections 
of Mr. J. A. O'Sullivan, who was a fellow-volunteer 
though in a different company, and of Dr. Best, who heard 
his story when he came back to Paris. 

MacKenna's company was composed of Frenchmen, 
Greeks from America, Greeks of Crete, Smyrna, Constan- 
tinople, Arabia, several Armenians, a Roumanian, two 
Russians, and an Irishman. " We volunteers were not 
exactly the cream of Europe, in fact I imagine that on the 
whole scum would be the truer word but we were rare 
good fellows in regard to each other." Report says that 
MacKenna had barely landed when he lost the whole of 
his meagre resources by having his pocket picked. If so 
it did not impair his admiration for the Greeks. " I 
found them splendid fellows courteous, generous, high- 
spirited, proud of their race and traditions, singularly 
well acquainted with their history, full of a passionate love 
of country, and above all deeply penetrated with respect 
and hospitality towards strangers." Their talk had the 
dramatic quality which characterised his own. " It is 
a land of speeches and you need never be afraid of 
delivering richly coloured orations which would make you 
ridiculous in these colder-blooded countries. . . . Almost 
every plunge which you make in the realms of the ridi- 
culous brings you closer and closer into the core of their 

1 The legend which attributes MacKenna's action to a romantic passion 
for a Greek girl (whom on his zcturn he found wedded to another !) is 
probably due to confusion with a later episode ; see below p. a. 

a Weekly Frsman, October 9, 1897. Passages in inverted commas arc 
quotations from this article, whose discovery I owe to the kindness of Mr. 
O'Sullivan and Mr. X. P. O'Donoghue. 


hearts. 55 From this time dates the interest which for 
many years MacKenna took in the literature of the 
modern Greek vernacular. 1 

When the company set out northward from Athens, 
Thessaly was already in the enemy's hands and the 
Greek army was in full retreat. Near Thermopylae they 
made contact with the Legion Philhellene (of which they 
were not officially part), and for some days they were en- 
camped within three miles of the Turkish lines. But they 
saw no real fighting. This was probably fortunate for 
MacKenna, who had never handled a weapon. Posted 
for the first time on sentry-duty, he explained the fact 
politely to an astonished Greek officer : " I do not under- 
stand, monsieur, the etiquette of this situation. 55 He had 
to be taught there and then how to salute, how to chal- 
lenge, how to hold his rifle. A further legend, perhaps 
apocryphal, relates that he was once involved in a bayonet 
charge. He hesitated in bewilderment, then, as a fat 
Turk sped past him, gently prodded the flying figure with 
the butt end of his weapon. It seemed an unmannerly 
act ; and the next moment the amateur man of blood, 
forgetting once more the etiquette of the situation, mur- 
mured instinctively, " Pardon, monsieur ! 55 The Greeks 
are a humorous race, and the utterance is said to have 
earned for MacKenna the affection of his companions in 

The young man's memories of the brief campaign were 
principally of long marches, often executed on empty 
stomachs, and of bivouacs round the camp-fire. " Some- 
times we marched for days on only a couple of army 
biscuits, hard as nails and about as digestible ; at other 
times, when we fell into a c lamb country, 5 we slaughtered 
them by the score with our bayonets and roasted them on 
great poles, which we turned chacun d son tour, over roaring 
fires." At night there was story-telling and dancing under 
the stars the traditional dances of the Levant, Greek, 

1 Cf, Journal, February 22, 1907 ; and letter 69. 


Turkish, Armenian, "all accompanied with strange 
croonings or wild prolonged howls in a high key, with a 
curious periodical wavering that somehow or other gave 

the whole thing a suggestion of nightmare Simply to 

sit quiet for hours, watching and listening, was a perpetual 
delight ; and then one would fall asleep just as one lay on 
the ground." MacKenna's closest comrade was a young 
Roumanian, a vagabond student from the university of 
Bucharest, who would sing to him in a low voice the songs 
of his people as they lay side by side, watching the others 
dancing or making merry in the firelight. 

The war was over too soon for his liking. According 
to O'Sullivan's recollection he was one of those who agreed, 
when his company was disbanded, to take service with a 
captain of comitadji, known as Black Michael, and make 
a dash in a transport for Crete, where the insurgents under 
Venizelos were still making head against the Turks. But 
the plot was discovered before it could be carried out. 
Instead, MacKenna found himself, witli a number of 
others, bound for Marseilles, " huddled on board a small 
Greek trading vessel, and thrown entirely on the hospi- 
tality of the sailors. All but absolutely penniless, we had 
no resource but to share their biscuit and pilaf, sitting in 
a circle on deck round the common pannikin and fishing 
out more or less nauseating morsels with a kind of chop- 
sticks improvised by the carpenter." The sailors were 
kindly, and one of them, by name Panagiotcs Kapetanaki, 
insisted on sharing nightly with MacKenna his one luxury 
a tiny pot of Turkish coffee, a drink, as MacKenna 
rightly calls it, " of rare potency and excellence/' One 
night, perceiving that the pot held scarcely enough coffee 
for one, the Irishman declined the proffered hospitality. 
" Then," cried the Greek, " the churi l shall enjoy it," 
and before anyone could stop him he emptied the pot 
into the sea. There were loud cries of protest. u Nay,'* 
he retorted, "it shall never be said that Panagiotes 


Kapetanaki drank coffee when the stranger who fought 
for his country had none." The two became friends ; 
they knocked about Marseilles together while MacKenna 
waited for money from home to take him to Paris, and 
they continued to correspond later. 

When the money came, MacKenna decided that he 
must share it with another new acquaintance, an Ameri- 
can Greek named Constantine, who was stranded in Mar- 
seilles without any means of reaching Paris (where he 
hoped to procure help from a compatriot). Two could 
not travel on one ticket, so the pair set out to walk the 800 
kilometres which separated them from the capital. It 
was an eventful journey. Their funds were exhausted 
long before they arrived at their goal, and they had to 
depend on such hospitality as they could get by telling 
their story. The country folk as a rule treated them well. 
u Often the proprietor of some little cafe would invite us 
to come c chcz moi un pcu, messieurs/ and he would 
spend half a day making heroes of us. . . . This was good 
for M. le Proprietaire and good for us : he would fill his 
cafe with customers ; we had at our disposal unlimited 
supplies of the mn dupqys." But often too they had to doss 
in barns or outhouses, sometimes in odd company. " On 
one occasion when seeking such shelter we saw a faint light 
twinkling through a chink in the wall of a dismantled 
cabin standing a little off the high road. Pushing towards 
it, we were astonished to see the light go out suddenly, 
while two men dashed out of the door full into our arms. 
The shock of our encounter gave the fellows time to see 
for themselves what manner of men we were, and they 
pulled themselves together, rather shamefaced, and in- 
formed us that they had thought we might be the police, 
and they were not en rtgle. I explained that we were in 
the same plight, and we were hailed as brothers in misfor- 
tune. The candle was lit, wine was broached, and we 
spent the whole night long in mild carousal conversing on 
the iniquities of the police of France, the unequal condi- 


tions of life, the sustaining powers of good wine, and so 
forth." Another time they had difficulty in resisting the 
invitation of a fellow-tramp to join him in a raid on a 
chicken farm, " pour faire la soupe." 

Lacking both identification papers and visible means 
of subsistence, they were frequently in trouble with the 
police. At one place MacKenna was mistaken for a 
notorious murderer then at large in the district, and spent 
the night in the vault of the village church, which was the 
only available lock-up. At another, two itinerant gen- 
darmes found the Greek and the Irishman asleep under a 
railway bridge, and demanded their papers. " We couid 
give no satisfaction, and to all our explanations the only 
answer was * yes, that may be so.' For three hours thc k 
two mounted guard over us, talking very pleasantly about 
all sorts of things, but refusing to allow us to go on our way. 
At dawn we were marched into the village, two wretched 
bedraggled objects, stared at with sleepy eyes by (he early 
peasant setting forth to toil. We were examined as iisual, 
and kept waiting as usual for the inspection by the chief ; 
but they gave us each a welcome bowl of , steaming frag- 
rant coffee, and drinking this we blessed and forgave 
them." The police of Lyons were less amiable. There 
was a strike in progress, and the town was in a hubbub. 
" The principal streets were thronged with noting (rowels, 
and myself and my companion, with the luck which had 
never deserted us throughout our expedition, were soon 
being beaten and hustled about in the thick of the scAifTlo. 
The police made finally a desperate charge, and in the 
tumult I was thrown down, and so separated from my 
friend. I soon met him, however, at the police office -he 
and I charged, in the company of some half dozen others, 
with being concerned in a breach of the peace." But here 
too they succeeded in establishing their innocence ; and 
at length the hour came when they passed the Purls 
octroi. Best, returning late one night to the rue d'Assas, 
found a battered Greek asleep in MacKenna's bed 


and a battered MacKenna stretched beside him on the 

While these adventures were befalling the outward 
Stephen MacKenna, the interior man appears to have 
been occupied with adventures of his own, equally ro- 
mantic and perhaps more dangerous. MacKenna talked 
of them even less than of those others ; but a Common- 
place-Book 1 which he began to keep on December i, 
1897, gives some hint of what they were. It opens with a 
series of detached paragraphs in which he sets forth a 
theory about human nature : 

" Behind and above the thinking and feeling and willing 
soul, or souls, is the real Man the unalloyed soul, which 
studies and judges the others. It does not so much feel 
as see that the inferior souls of him, the outer husk of the 
spirit, feels. This is the calm lonely thing, really un- 
troubled by the vagaries of life, which presides over all 

Its pronouncement is immutable : it is all that the Man 
will ever see of truth ; it is the unquestionable fruit of his 
individuality ; it is his entire draft upon the * All Know- 
ledge/ ... It is the Dweller on the threshold, looking 
before and after, seeing things material and things spiri- 
tual in their whole nature and tendency but always by 
its own light. . . . Here is the ground of the Equality of 
Man and of a certain equality in all nature* . . . The 
criminal is often a moral idiot, essentially undefiled : often 
one feels in dealing with those whose conduct one most 
abhors that it is only the outer husk of one's own soul that 
is disgusted and repelled, and only by the outer husk of 
their soul. It is why we may often love a person without 
caring to say we respect him." 

Such a conception of Man involves a corresponding 
view of Art, which MacKenna briefly states on another 
page : 

" The art of expression in poetry and in philosophy is 

1 Now in the possession of Mr, F. A. Turk, who was good enough to 
place it at my disposal. 


the art of descent : it is limiting and cabining the wide 
vision of the Spirit : it is telling a truth so as to be under- 
stood, not so as to be true : it is materialising the spiritual 
and losing much in the decanting." ^ 

These thoughts were far from new in 1897. But there 
is something in the young MacKenna's statement of them 
which suggests that for him they were not so much the 
fruit of reading as the expression of a temperament and 
of an inner experience. And for many years afterwards 
they kept such a place at the core of his thinking as bor- 
rowed thoughts cannot long maintain. In 1907, having 
just thrown up a comfortable career for a point of honour, 
he notes with surprise that " nothing in him really cares, 
nothing in him is even occupied by the crisis," and asks 
himself whether it is childishness or wisdom, or perhaps 
both, " because the two are one." x A year later he pre- 
dicts that " If men cease to pray to God they will all the 
more, and all the more imploringly, consult their own 
Highest, which is but God more nearly seen"; 2 and in 
1915 he propounds in an unpublished essay on " Experi- 
mental Ethics " the notion of living " by and in and for 
my own sense of the Highest " as the only adequate basis 
for a rational system of morals. Through all his later 
changes of outward creed this Protestant and antinomian 
mysticism lay, one may guess, as a secret source of 
strength at the heart of MacKenna's dealings with the 
world : its last transformation is the " dcsupernaturalised 
Yoga " which at the end of his life he recommended to 
Margaret Nunn. 3 

The remainder of the 1897 notebook consists of extracts 
from MacKenna's reading. Almost all of them relate to 
one or other of two topics the problem of style and the 
problem of conducting one's life. On style, he quotes the 
advice of Anatole France, of Flaubert, of R&ny de Gour- 
mont, of Buffon. On the conduct of life he cites Whitman, 
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche (very copiously excerpted), 

1 Journal^ April 1 1, 1907. * ibid., February n, i<jo8. a Letter 80. 


Thoreau and Emerson, Plato and Marcus Aurelius, Pater, 
Lafcadio Hearn, and a motley assortment of other persons, 
including Ouida and Arthur Lynch. Such a Board of 
spiritual directors would scarcely have been approved by 
the good Rosminian Fathers at Ratcliffe College. Ex- 
plicit references to Christianity are very few ; but having 
copied out several pages of Diotima's discourse from the 
Symposium of Plato he appends a note " Surely no man or 
god ever wrote more nobly ! That Christianity instead of 
Platonism became the religion of the later ages is the 
eternal proof of the imbecility of man/' 


For the next six or seven years MacKenna was fighting 
for a livelihood as a journalist. He seldom spoke of these 
years, and little record of them remains. He seems to 
have lefjt Paris for London in the late autumn of 1897. In 
1898 he was in Dublin, sharing rooms in Kildare Street 
with the late D. J. O'Donoghue ; in 1899 he was in New 
York, where tradition says that for a time he earned his 
living by sweeping out a restaurant. To this period 
belongs the encounter described in Mr. Colum's preface. 
Fortune intervened, and MacKenna exchanged his broom 
for a hardly more congenial employment as assistant 
editor of " a pseudo-literary freak production " * called 
the Criterion. It may be supposed that his conscience 
revolted, or that he confessed too candidly his opinion of 
the Criterion : at any rate before the end of 1899 he was 
back in Paris, doing night work for Gribayedeff. 

The little appartement in the rue d'Assas which he had 
shared with Elmassian was now tenanted by Synge ; 
MacKenna found rooms in the rue Boissonade. He was 
at first desperately poor, and was often living on credit ; 
luckily the tradesmen of the Quartier liked and trusted 
1 Letter to Debenham, 1917. 


him. Gradually the young man with the burning eyes 
and the wild black hair began to be known in the world of 
journalism. Gribayedeff introduced him to Henri Dumay 
and to the eccentric Gordon Bennett, who in those r days 
edited the New York Herald by cable from his house in 
Paris. Bennett gave him employment as an interviewer. 
For this work he had the qualification, at that time some- 
what uncommon, of being a gentleman. Hating pub- 
licity himself, he did his best to protect his victims from 
the more blatant forms of it, and thereby gained their 
confidence and not infrequently their friendship. It was 
thus that he won the heart of J. D. Rockefeller when he 
was sent to interview him in his retirement at Chantilly : 
he liked to tell how the millionaire took him into the 
village shop and bought him, after interminable haggling, 
a two-franc walking-stick as a memorial of the occasion. 
So, too, a business correspondence with Rodin led to 
MacKenna's becoming a frequent visitor at the famous 
house in Meudon ; at a later date the sculptor presented 
to Mrs. MacKenna his well-known bronze The Cen~ 
tauress a work which Stephen disliked, declaring him- 
self ready to pawn it " for a pint of creamy porter." l 

In 1902 there occurred a crisis in MacKenna's personal 
life. In a letter of January 21, 1902, Mrs. Synge (J. M. 
Synge's mother) writes, evidently from information sup- 
plied by her son : " MacKenna is the only friend he 
[J. M. Synge] had left in Paris, and he is leaving for good 
as he is going to marry a Greek girl" 2 MacKenna did 
not marry the Greek girl. Soon after Mrs. Synge's letter 
was written he met, in the studio of his friend Spicer 
Simson, a young American named Mary Bray, 8 who had 
been Hans Pfitzner's pupil and was now being trained aw 
a concert pianist at the Conservatoire. She was de~ 

1 Letter to Bodkin, December ass, 1913. Gf. letter 27* 

2 The reason appears inadequate. Possibly MacKenna contemplated 
settling in Greece, but the facts are not now ascertainabta 

3 She later adopted the French spelling " Marie.** 


scended on her father's side from an old County Wicklow 
family ; her face could light up with " a glorious flash of 
urgent intelligence and quick emotion " * ; she loved 
Ireland, music, and the cause of justice. MacKenna 
demanded to meet her again. A supper party was 
arranged, and when the party was over the two young 
people transferred themselves to a cafe to finish their talk. 
The caf< closed ; they found another, and then another. 
When all the cafes were closed, the Bois de Boulogne 
received them, and here they walked till breakfast time. 
They were married in London in January 1 903.2 It was 
a mixed marriage, but Mrs. MacKenna shortly afterwards 
became a Catholic, and in later years her frightened piety 
was one of the influences which deterred her husband from 
making an open breach with Catholicism. 

Not long after his marriage MacKenna suddenly 
achieved financial prosperity. His work for Gordon Ben- 
nett's New York Herald had attracted the notice of Ben- 
nett's rival, the Americanised Hungarian, Joseph Pulitzer, 
" the founder of so-called yellow journalism/ 9 3 who was 
just then engaged in thrusting the New York World into the 
front rank of American daily papers. Pulitzer was a man 
quick to recognise new talent and quick to make a pre- 
emptive bid for it. He appointed MacKenna first as a 
special correspondent and later as continental representa- 
tive of the Warty with a staff of assistants, a central office 
in Paris, and a salary that in those days was considered 
princely. Between 1903 and 1907 MacKenna had his 
first and last taste of what is called success. 

His headquarters at this period was a flat overlooking 
the Luxembourg Gardens, a flat full of books, grand 
pianos, and old French furniture ; he had also a week-end 
cottage at Clamart But at first he had little time to enjoy 

1 Letter 6, 

8 The date depends on Lynch's statement that the new* of Lynches con- 
demnation to death for high treason reached MacKenna just as he started 
on his honeymoon. 

8 R. D. Blumenfeld, The Puss in my Ttm> p. 41* 


these novel luxuries. In the autumn of 1903 he was sent 
as special correspondent to Berlin, and in the following year 
to London. In the winter of 1904-5 the abortive " first 
revolution " shook the fabric of the Russian Empire, and 
MacKenna was despatched to investigate it. He inter- 
viewed high officials like the formidable Trepof, Governor- 
General of St. Petersburg, and Kachanov, the man re- 
sponsible for the Odessa massacre ; liberal leaders like 
Prince Paul Dolgorouki and Count Hayden ; intellectuals 
like Tolstoi and Baron von Meyendorf (who told him to 
come again in ten years, " when perhaps I shall have 
invented a better system "). He penetrated to the garrets 
of revolutionary students in St. Petersburg, was one of the 
two or three foreign representatives admitted to the 
historic Zemstvo Congress at Moscow, and ferreted out in 
Odessa the tangled and pitiful facts of the Potemkin mutiny 
and its terrible consequences. 

With MacKenna' s first visit to Tolstoi there is associated 
a curious little tale, which provoked a correspondence 
many years later. I give it in MacKcnna's own words : 3 

" One winter in the early years of this century, Michael 
Davitt and myself went to Yasnia Polyana, saw the Count 
Tolstoi, looking eminently County, walking his woods, 
knocked for long at his door, and were at last let in by the 
Moujik Tolstoi, as Moujiky as in any of the current photo- 
graphs, to be seated at a table covered, peasant-fashion, 
with a cloth foul with stains of eggs and coffee and 
never, either of us, I think, felt quite easy again about the 
doctrine trumpeted forth from that stagy shrine. Of 
course, one tries to believe that, somehow, the man's soul 
was nobler than his practice ; certainly his death with 
yet again a touch of the stage ? was moving." 

MacKenna refrained from regaling the American public 
with this quaint example of inverted snobbery ; but the 
story got about among his friends, was eventually quoted, 

Letter to Irish Statesman, October i, 1927, 


long after Tolstoi's death, by " A. E," in the Imh States- 
man, and excited the indignation of Tolstoi's English 
admirers. It was fathered at first on MacKenna's name- 
sake the novelist : * see letters 54 to 58. 

MacKenna was strongly moved by the events which he 
witnessed in Russia, and he felt that they had a profound 
significance for the development of western civilisation. 
" Japan and Russia/ 5 he wrote in July 1905, cc appear now 
to hold much of the secret of the world's future, and 
Russia more of it than Japan. . . . Russia's awakening is 
the great interesting fact of our day. . . . There will be 
a new force set to work in the world, and there will be in 
the universal intelligence an answering change, both 
direct and by reaction, similar to that set up by the great 
liberating movements of a hundred years ago." Like most 
daily journalism, MacKenna's despatches from Russia 
bear some marks of hasty composition ; but their vivid 
portraiture of leading personalities, their psychological 
acumen, and their essential humanity make them inter- 
esting reading even to-day. For the purposes of this 
memoir they have little documentary value, since for the 
most part they are studiously impersonal and bare of 
autobiographical detail ; but I shall allow myself to 
quote the paragraphs in which he described the reception 
in St. Petersburg of the news of the assassination of the 
Grand Duke Sergius, who was believed to be the Czar's 
evil genius and the real ruler of Russia. The passage, 
which I print as it was originally drafted by MacKenna, 2 
throws some light both on its writer's manner of life at this 
time and on the attitude which he was later to adopt in 
face of events not altogether dissimilar in a country closer 
to his heart than Russia. 

" It is ghastly all the same* One perfectly understands 

1 The two men were constantly confused : see letters 51 and 95. 

* The original drafts of a number of MacKenna's despatches (which 
often reached the American public in a garbled form) were preserved 
among his papers. 


it : to a certain degree one sympathises perhaps : as- 
suredly one is interested, for it is a sudden revelation of 
the secrets of hearts, the leaping up of light on the whole 
mystery of the common mind of Russia. But it is ghastly 
all the same. 

" We are at lunch together a band of cosmopolitan 
correspondents, an attache of an embassy, a booted 
officer returned wounded from the front, two Petersbur- 
gian journalists. All over the room from innumerable 
tables laughter, the popping of corks, the sounds of friendly 
discussion ; everywhere the uniforms of soldiers, police- 
officials, functionaries, the gay toilettes of smiling women. 
" A waiter willows a rapid way through the cheerful 
groups to our table. 
"' You know? 9 
" c What ? ' 

" c They have killed him ! ' 
" ' Tr^pof ? ' we all cry. 
" c No : Sergei ! ' 

" There is a rapid shoving back of chairs, a flinging 
down of serviettes, glass crashes, the correspondents make 
rapid exit, calling for their couriers, yelling for sleighs : 
they are off to embassies, ministries, newspaper offices, to 
secret centres of information : in a quarter of an hour 
there will be fifty men besieging the Moscow Telephone 
Company's servants, striving with each other to get from 
their carefully prepared sources the answer to the ques- 
tion, * Is it one man's work or was it a mob ? Is it the 
revolution ? * But even as we fly I hear the officer's gruff 
voice in one word, 'Svinaia': it is his comment, his 
requiem over the dead, and it means well, to translate 
discreetly, it means c Brute ! * He will not say that, 
probably, before his brother officers at the caserne, where 
he does the routine work permitted by his convalescence 
and whither he now hastens as fast as two horses can 
whirl his sleigh through the mud : the news spreading 
through the city may stir slumbering passion to sudden 


flame, and in these days every officer flies to barracks on 
the lightest word of possible disturbance. He will not say 
c Svinaia ' at the caserne : but it was a true speech none 
the Jess, an authentic expression of feeling before discre- 
tion came into play. 

" In an hour or two most of us are satisfied that there is 
nothing to be done for the moment : one man made 
Moscow famous, there is no general movement : let 
Moscow gather up the fragments. Back in the restaurant, 
the scene is unchanged : some few guests have slipped 
out, others have come in : everyone knows that Duke 
Serge is in pieces. From every table there comes the 
sound of cheerful talk, of laughter of men and women ; 
there is a popping of corks. As you pass by table after 
table you hear the word Sergei or Alexandrovitch or 
Nicholas or Zemsky Sobor : but there is not a cloud on 
any face ; only here and there rarely is there any sign of 
earnest talk, of any feeling. At our table a brilliant Lon- 
don writer tells the Russian journalists laboriously the 
tale of Punch's timid curate wrestling with a bad egg at 
his Bishop's breakfast table : * Dear me, Mr. Golightly,' 
says the Bishop, 6 1 am afraid your egg is bad. 9 c No, your 
Grace . . . that is ... it is quite good in bits.* This is the 
prologue : the application is ghoulish : * So I have 
imagined the Grand Duchess mourning her doubtful 
husband : " He is quite good in bits*" ' There is an 
uproarious laugh ; the thing hits admirably the situation, 
if there be truth in the legend that the gentle and good 
wife had long since come to loathe her husband. From 
the next table there is an application for a translation into 
Russian of the story that must be so funny : from French 
the whole thing goes into Russian, by the agency of the 
attach^ ; and our Russian neighbours, who include an 
ex- * Maid of Honour * of the Imperial Court, laugh con- 
sumedly. I find it ghastly, 

" It is the mood of the evening. A French visitor does 
not like a sauce they have served with his fish. He calls 


the maitre d'hotel and with great gravity begs for the 
assassination of the chef. The waiter, as Russian as kwass 
or bortch, replies c But the chef is not a Grand Duke, 3 and 
again from all the environment there is laughter. f 

" I ask a man who passes for so very moderate a liberal 
as to be almost a reactionary what he thinks : the answer 
is startling, * Bah ! do I think at all of the skin of a dog ? ' 

" Surely never man died so execrated ; never was a 
hideous death so flippantly or so ghoulishly handled ; 
never was an assassination treated with such simple good 
faith, as the natural exit for that particular victim. 

" c It was only a question of putting a date on the 
thing, 5 said a rich merchant of the Nievsky, c everyone 
knew it must come some day : everyone is glad now that 
it has come even the Csar.' 

" In fact it is extremely probable that Nicholas is glad 
to be rid of his evil genius, the Heliogabalus of Moscow 
I borrow the word from an officer once in Sergius' 
suite whose brutal will power had mastered the master 
of all the Russias and withered with a sneering tongue, 
they say the Csar's inborn spirit of peace and goodwill. 

" The hotel reeked with ugly stories of the monster while 
his pitiful fragments, we were told, had not yet been 
gathered up. This dead man no one spared, and no one 
said, of many whom I heard and questioned, one good 
word for him ; not one good trait recorded, no single 
pleasant anecdote. The air was infected. Some of us 
went out late at night, partly for relief, partly because 
conceivably there might be trouble. I veritably believe 
the people were for the moment too glad to be dangerous. 
The Nievsky was a cheerful promenade even in the slush 
of the sudden thaw : no sign, even, of that grave pre- 
occupation that the circumstances surely warranted, how- 
ever the duke deserved his doom : people were gay in an 
entirely simple acceptance of a piece of good news. I 
doubt if to anyone in Petersburg there was present any 
thought that after all this thing belonged, roughly speaking 


and pending a thoughtful justification, to the category of 
crime. I don't think the notion of crime existed in Peters- 
burg, even to be rapidly dismissed as inapplicable. The 
thing was envisaged only in its relief, and a little in its 
consequences, as what the law calls an Act of God. It 
was remarkable that no curiosity was expressed as to the 
person or motives or associations of the man that threw 
the bomb : he did not count : only the relief counted 
and that shone in every face, seemed almost to show in 
the cheerier gait of every promenader. 

" I find this ghastly : all said and done, it indicates a 
wide demoralisation, not to be blamed perhaps, but to be 
deplored ; and what a light is here on the state of the 
public mind of Russian society, on the grave possibilities 
of the future." 

In the autumn of 1905, when the Russian upheaval had 
subsided, MacKenna was sent to Stockholm, and thence 
to Budapest to study the constitutional crisis in Hungary. 
This too subsided, and he returned to Paris. He had 
enjoyed his work as a special correspondent ; his duties 
as head of the Paris office proved much less to his taste. 
The society of newspaper men was not congenial to him : 
" I am dazed and saddened/' he wrote in his journal, 
" by their many-sided knowledge, taking in all the world 
of active life so beyond my grip ; and I am wearied by 
the talk of these men, so shy of general ideas and so dis- 
dainful, placidly, of all that they conceive to be poetic or 
artistic." But there was worse than this. In the absence 
of political sensations he was expected to disinter, or 
cause others to disinter, the less savoury scandals of Paris 
society for the delight of a coprophagous public. To a man 
of MacKenna's sensitive conscience such duties were a 
torment. " I cannot go on with this work," he told his 
cousin Ambrose Kelly about 1906 : " I am a journalist, 
not a muck-raker." Though in his journal he tries more 
than once to reassure himself with the thought that in 
daily work " it is foolish to hope to be always handling 


noble themes/' this interlude of prosperity seemed to 
him " an ugly idleness." " It is certain that to handle 
the daily fact for the daily press is neither work to my 
heart nor freedom to any man : it is for those who have 
stifled the innermost self for the unhappy, then, or for 
the fallen." 

This growing dissatisfaction was accompanied and in- 
tensified by a revival of earlier interests. In 1897 he had 
of ancient Greek, by his own account, " but a few words 
remembered from schooldays." l At what date he re- 
sumed his study of it is not clear ; but in 1902 he began 
working on a translation of Marcus Aurelius, which he 
never completed, and a version of the Menexenus, found 
among his papers after his death, may belong to the same 
period. A little later he embarked on an interesting 
attempt to render Pindar, his favourite Greek poet, into 
equivalent English metres, but did not persevere with it. 
These early experiments seem to have brought home to 
him the inadequacy of his equipment as a scholar : his 
note-books show him toiling at Greek irregular verbs and 
working through Goodwin's Moods and Tenses as he rushed 
about Europe to interview this and that political notabil- 
ity. His interest in the Enneads appears to have been born 
amid the gunfire of the 1905 revolution ; in that year 
he bought in St. Petersburg Creuzer's Oxford P3otinus,and 
in Moscow the Didot edition. By the beginning of 1907 
he was definitely contemplating the vast task of translating 
the whole of Plotinus for the first time into English. 2 " It 
seems to me," he wrote later in that year, " that I must 
be born for him, and that somehow someday I must have 
nobly translated him." 3 

On his thirty-fifth birthday MacKenna experienced " a 
great moral upheaval 35 and nothing done, and almost 
certainly nothing ever to be done." He resolved on an 

1 Weekly Freeman, October 9, 1897. But the CJommonplacc-Book shows a 
continued interest in the classics. 

2 Journal, March 29, 1907. 3 ibid., December 5, 1907. 


earnest effort of self-improvement : 

TO ow ayoAjua, " cease not to be the sculptor of thine own 
image/ 9 he quotes to himself from Plotinus. The journal 
for 1907-9 reflects a persistent conflict between his tor- 
mented conscience and that fatalistic indolence which is 
an element in the temper of nearly every Irishman, " To 
have no set purpose in one's life," he tells himself, " is 
the harlotry of the will." " It seems to me that it is 
quite useless and silly to live unless one is either very in- 
telligent or very good." But again, <e why need we be 
ceaselessly examining our consciences : e what am I 
doing with my life ? * . . . The forces outside humanity 
that put us here or leave us here and will one day take 
us away, will do their will with us, if they have a will 
about us : if they have no will about us, why should we 
try to give them one ? " He could neither escape this 
fatalism nor rest in it : " I am like the princes of Greece 
round Penelope, a ten-years' wooer ; I am always in my 
mind waiting for some bell to ring that never rings." 
Such a man, he wrote, " is footsore early, because his 
walking is nowhither and because his heart is always 
fighting with his feet." " I feel a great need," he says 
in October 1908, " of having on the work-table some piece 
of writing, serious and linked, which every day I might 
bring nearer to an end firmly set for some gravely formed 
purpose." For the next twenty years Plotinus was to 
satisfy that need. 

A man who felt like this was evidently ill-fitted to 
preside over the Paris office of the New York World. But 
his final breach with American journalism was brought 
about by a trivial personal incident in the spring of 1907. 
Joseph Pulitzer, owner and editor of the World, visited 
Paris and demanded that MacKenna should attend upon 
him as a sort of courier. MacKenna consented, but with 
reluctance, and relations became somewhat strained as 
he trailed round shops and cabarets in the wake of his 
exacting employer. At last the newspaper king departed 


to his yacht on the Riviera. The respite was brief: a 
few hours later Pulitzer wired MacKenna to buy six 
chickens and six ducklings, take them to the Gare de 
Lyon, and there deliver them to a valet for conveyance 
to the yacht. It was the last straw : was an Irish gentle- 
man to do the work of a personal servant to " buttle/' 
as he expressed it for any man? MacKenna wired 
back, in words which were for years afterwards proverbial 
among Paris journalists, " Refuse dc vous acheter six 
poulets et six canetons : ceci est ma resignation." On 
the fourth of May he handed over to his friend Colonel 
Lynch both his duties and the admirable flat beside the 
Luxembourg, and retired to the cottage at Clamart to 
consider his future. In July he moved to lodgings in 
London, and in the following summer to Dublin, which 
was to be, with one interval, his home for the next sixteen 

This affair of the chickens merely precipitated a deci- 
sion which was already, as the journal shows, prepared in 
MacKenna's inward growth. But it is characteristic of 
the man. While in his dealings with his fellows he nor- 
mally practised the most scrupulous courtesy, he had in- 
herited from his father a liability to sudden accesses of 
rage which discharged themselves in impulsive action and 
sometimes in actual physical violence. The occasion 
when he forcibly ejected from his house a well-known 
Dublin professor is still remembered with joy or embar- 
rassment by those who had the good or bad fortune to be 
present. Such incidents were infrequent, but they some- 
times had inconvenient consequences. One day during 
his last Paris period, C61estine, the MacKcnnas' faithful 
bonne, presented herself in a state of extreme agitation at 
the studio of the Spicer Simsons : Monsieur had been 
arrested ; with her own eyes she had seen from the 
balcony of the flat the dreadful spectacle of Monsieur 
being marched down the street between two gendarmes. 
Mrs. Simson hastened to the police station. There she 


learned that MacKenna had entered a barber's shop to 
have his hair cut. Confronted with the great lock of 
raven hair which in those days hung over MacKenna* s 
eyes or floated behind him on the wind, the barber de- 
manded permission to prune it. MacKenna was reading 
Plotinus in the tonsorial chair. " Laissez a," he said, 
and went on reading. The barber expostulated tactlessly: 
" mais $a a Pair vraiment ridicule," he observed with a 
simper. The next moment his client leapt from his chair 
and brought down Plotinus with all his force on the 
critic's head. There was a fracas. The barber and his 
assistant fled from the shop, adroitly locking their berserk 
customer inside,, and returned presently with two gen- 
darmes. MacKenna was haled before ihzjuge de paix, and 
in due course paid twenty francs for the privilege of 
chastising insolence. 

His resignation from the Mew York World was followed 
by a period of hesitancy and experiment. He could not 
afford to abandon journalism altogether. His wife had 
a life interest in certain monies which down to the time 
of the war when dividends dropped heavily yielded an 
income sufficient for her personal needs. But MacKenna 
did not propose to live on his wife. He continued to 
write for the Freeman 's Journal (then the leading Irish 
nationalist daily), to which he had long been an occa- 
sional contributor, and meanwhile he prepared himself 
for more serious work. He tried his hand for a time at 
writing short stories, but with little success. Critics have 
found in his Plotinus " a mind and a style which might 
have produced fine original poetry or prose " ; x but 
MacKenna lacked that patient devotion to concrete 
detail which Edwardian literary fashion demanded. " I 
have no power/ 5 he notes, cc over the fact bound in time 
and place " a curious admission on the part of a jour- 
nalist. His temperament revolted against the surface 
realism and the tight, rather mechanical construction 

1 Sir John Squire in The Observer a January 4, 1931. 


which most people admired in 1907 : in his journal for 
that year he predicts a day when " plot will go by the 
board and real life will be taboo ... the matter of books 
will be delicately critical, piercingly * psychological/ or 
wholly fantastic : we shall have the novel of the other- 
world and of the deeper man." Had he been born a 
quarter of a century later he might, I think, have been a 
novelist. 1 Edwardian literature he found to be, with few 
exceptions, " almost whining- weak, or else strong with 
sordidness." He turned from it with relief to the old 
authors, and especially to the Elizabethans. It is worth 
recording that among modern poets he had an especial 
fondness for Hopkins, in whom he recognised the same 
passionate twofold search for spiritual unity and for 
the freshly significant word by which he himself was 
tormented. He read, and read aloud to his friends, all 
he could discover of Hopkins' work before the edition of 
1918 ; as early as 1913 he was urging the publication of 
certain poems of Hopkins which existed in MS. in 
Ireland ; 2 and later we find him copying out the sestet of 
The Windhover on a postcard and sending it to Bodkin to 
whet his appetite. For the rest, to the end he approached 
his younger contemporaries in literature, as he approached 
the classics, with humility ; but he was not to be sug- 
gested into fashionable appreciations : thus he confessed 
himself unable to get through Ulysses, though he judged 
that Wyndham Lewis's attack on Joyce was only half 
justified. 3 

MacKenna's years of daily journalism had not, in his 
own view, taught him to write English : "I read no- 
where, outside of the very sorriest reporter-work, any 
prose less like prose than mine is," 4 As a journalist he 

1 Some of D. H. Lawrence's characteristic ideas are oddly anticipated in 
the Journal . see especially the entry of June 23, 1908. 

a In a letter to Bodkin, December 22, 1913. 
8 Letter to W. K. Magee, March 23, 1927. 
4 Journal, June 27, 1908. 


had been content to " defy all the sanctities if only I 
might anyhow please myself with a yell and a flare and a 
fit of ribald glee : now only I begin to know that it is 
not ^the Phrase * that counts to any good ; it is < la 
Phrase' the Sentence, the orderly, suave and gracious 
setting of the true word in the clear meaning." 1 In 1907 
he set himself to learn to write, by the laborious and to 
most judgements unpromising method of constructing 
for himself a thesaurus of classical English word-usage. 2 
It was found among his papers after his death, and con- 
tains many thousands of entries, alphabetically arranged. 
Among the authors whom he read, in entirety or in part, 
for this purpose between May 1907 and September 1908 
are Chaucer, Maundeville, Sidney, Spenser, Chapman, 
Marlowe, Greene, Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson, 
Nicholas Breton, Puttenham, William Webbe, Milton, 
Herrick, Crashaw, George Herbert, Otway, Whetstone, 
Sedley, Congreve, Pope, Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Browning, 
Tennyson, Meredith and Walt Whitman, besides a good 
deal of the Authorised Version. He recognised that such 
labour stands to style " only as scourging and fasting to 
holiness/' But by September 1907 he notes that although 
he does not yet write well he is already writing better than 
ever before. 

While he toiled thus to forge for himself an English 
style he pondered long and earnestly on the use which he 
should make of it and of his life. Two dreams contended 
for the mastery of his will : should he consecrate to 
Plotinus whatever leisure he could spare from journalism ? 
or should he settle in Dublin, throw himself into nation- 
alist politics, and work through the Gaelic League (now 
an increasingly influential force) " at putting the new 
soul into Ireland " ? His friends at home, notably 
Fiondn MacColuim, strongly pressed the latter course. 

* He later made himself similar, though less complete, ihcsauruses for 
Greek and Irish. 


Either seemed to him " worth a life." * For some years 
he attempted to do both things. He got ready a specimen 
of the Plotinus translation the essay on Beauty, Ennead 
I. vi. and Synge promised to sound Irish publishers for 
him. " It would be a mistake/' wrote Synge, " to send 
your MS. to Yeats and AE, as what one likes the other 
hates that is sad but true, * tantane something in celestial 
minds/ Virgil." 2 Eventually, towards the end of 1908, 
the slender treatise was published as a separate booklet, 
by Sullen. Reading it in proof, MacKenna judged it 
" a very pleasant piece of English," 3 though he con- 
demned it later. 4 The original limited edition of 300 
copies was sold out, and it was twice reprinted, but the 
translator's total receipts from it were between four and 
five pounds. 

Meanwhile he had made up his mind to return to his 
own country. He had thoughts of more formally repairing 
the gaps in his early education, and in 1908 he actually 
started reading for the Matriculation Examination of the 
Royal (now National) University of Ireland. In February 
of that year the late head of the Paris office of the New 
York World notes in his journal with modest pride that he 
now really understands and enjoys elementary geometry 
" and even algebra." Geometry he finds " a rare searcher 
of the brain " : " looking in this mirror one knows what 
manner of man one is." He looks forward also to master- 
ing " the principles of machines " : cc schoolboys," he 
exclaims, " arc given these pearls too soon, or at least I 
was." But it proved impossible to combine academic 
studies with daily journalism. In November 1908 
MacKenna obtained permanent employment as a leader- 
writer for the Freemarts Journal^ and the notion of taking 

1 Journal, January 15, 1908. 

2 This and some other letters of Synge to MacKenna arc preserved in the 
National Library of Ireland. They have unfortunately at some time been 
so shockingly mutilated, in an attempt to excise libellous and blasphemous 
matter, as to render them almost worthless. 

* Journal* August 28, 1908* 4 See letter 4. 


a degree was dropped : in the army of scholarship he 
was destined to fight to the end as an irregular. 

In compensation he embarked on a serious attempt to 
learn Irish. In his years of wandering he had already 
dabbled in it for odd half-hours ; in London he had 
attended the evening classes organised by the Gaelic 
League ; and now that he was settled in Dublin he began 
to work for the Diploma of the College of Irish. He also 
did administrative work for the League, as a member of 
the committee which organised its annual assembly, the 
Oireachtas ; and he was full of ideas for the further devel- 
opment of its activities. He raged against those who 
thought of Irish as a patois for peasants, " who in grotesque 
ignorance or in lying malice assert that the Irish of so 
much poetry is fit only for discussing the feeding of pigs 
and the promise of cows." 1 " A man could do anything 
in Irish," he wrote to a friend in 1914, " say and express 
anything, and do it with an exquisite beauty of sound." 
For himself he lamented that he had come to the language 
too late to make it his medium of expression. " I con- 
sider it the flaw and sin of my life," he says in the same 
letter, " that I didn't twenty years ago give myself body 
and soul to the Gaelic to become a writer in it, as some 
God forgive me some Conrad in English or some Flem 
flammanding in French, and help to make the literature 
which would re-root the language." As it was, he could 
only read and criticise the work of others. The contem- 
porary fiction and poetry which was beginning to be 
written in Irish was narrow in range, tenuous in substance, 
and too often childishly sentimental ; but the few edu- 
cated critics who were able to read it refrained from 
saying so, either from patriotic motives or for fear of 
making enemies. MacKenna, measuring these things by 
European standards, demanded something better, and in 
later years did not hesitate to state his view of them in 
print : " those pretty wee comfits, 3 ' he called them, " very 

1 Memories of the Dead, p. 13. 


sweet and delicate, but not equal in a bagful to one solid, 
sticky, jaw-exercising chunk of toffee." x 

In this and other ways MacKenna 9 s function in Dublin 
was to be a missionary of Europeanisrn. Ireland' $ geo- 
graphical position has exposed her through the centuries 
to two alternative perils, Anglicisation and Balkanisation 
to become a cultural dependency of England or to exist 
as an isolated and therefore stagnant community on the 
fringe of civilisation, a moribund limb dangling unheeded 
over the Atlantic from the extremity of the European tree. 
Most of MacKenna's fellow- workers in the Gaelic move- 
ment realised only the first danger ; MacKenna realised 
both. His ideal was an Ireland Irish in speech, in culture, 
in institutions, but not an Ireland cut off from the fertil- 
ising waters of the great European tradition. 2 He has 
often been called an extremist ; but he had only ridicule 
for the " formulistic side-taking," as he once termed it, 
of Irish political discussions ; and he was ready to leap to 
the defence not only of Syngc, who was a personal friend, 
but of men like W. B. Yeats and Hugh Lane when they 
were denounced as heretics or " anglicisers " by clerical 
bigotry and the zealots of Sinn Fein. When Yeats' 
Collected Works appeared in the winter of 1908-9, 
Brayden, the editor of the Freeman* s Journal, wanted to 
arrange for a hostile review : " he would have given it," 
wrote MacKenna long afterwards to " A. E.," " to a 
good fellow who, I don't know why, honestly thought 
W. B. raised up by the devil to corrupt and humiliate 
Holy Ireland, and himself raised up by God and I think 
the Blessed Virgin to save and protect her/* MacKenna 
insisted on doing the review, and wrote, in defiance of his 
editor, a long and eloquent defence of Yeats' poetry 
against the then current charges that it was " obscure," 
" affected," and " un-Irish." The review evoked a letter 
of praise from the dying Synge, who found in it " a sure* 

1 New Ireland^ December 15, 1917. 
a Gf Journal, February 18, 1908. 


ness of touch and an entirely successful vehemence that 
delighted me." 

Of Synge's own failure to satisfy the canons of nationalist 
orthodoxy, MacKenna wrote later : " I judged S. in- 
tensely, though not practically, national. He couldn't 
endure the lies that gathered round all the political move- 
ment, flamed or rather turned a filthy yellow with rage 
over them, gently hated Miss Gonne for those she launched 
or tolerated, loathed the Gaelic League for ever on the 
score of one pamphlet in which someone, speaking really 
a half truth, had urged the youth of Ireland to learn 
modern Irish because it would give them access to the 
grand old Saga literature ; I have never forgotten the 
bale in his eyes when he read this and told me 6 That's a 
Bloody lie ; long after they know modern Irish, which 
they'll never know, they'll still be miles and years from 
any power over the Saga.' I have never known a man 
with so passionate, so pedantic a value for truth as S. He 
didn't so much judge the lie intellectually or morally as 
simply hate it as one hates a bad smell or a filthy taste. 
This alone would put him off any public movement 
whatever." l 

The MacKennas' home from 1908 to 1913 was a quiet 
old house where Trollope had once lived : it lies on the 
outer skirt of the city at the end of a little cul-de-sac, 
looking across green fields to the sea. Here every Saturday 
evening they entertained their friends. Dublin hospitality 
was very simple in those days ; innumerable pots of 
strong tea were consumed, but at most houses little else 
" a cup of coffee and a stale biscuit, with I hope fresh 
talk," MacKenna offers in one letter of invitation. 
Dubliners, like the Athenians whom St. Paul knew, have 
a peculiar passion for fresh talk ; and MacKenna quickly 
gathered round him an interesting group of young men 
among them Thomas Bodkin, later Director of the 
National Gallery of Ireland, the Celtic scholar Bergin, the 

1 Letter to Lynch, autumn 1928. 


critic J. M. Hone, Edmund Curtis, afterwards Professor 
of History at Trinity College, and four young poets, 
Padraic Colum, Thomas MacDonagh, " Seumas O'Sulli- 
van " and James Stephens. " A. E." was also a fairly 
frequent visitor, but I think that he and MacKenna were 
never wholly at ease in each other's company, or even 
perhaps in their correspondence on the second point the 
reader of this book can judge for himself. It is true that 
in later years, at any rate, each respected the other's 
achievement. MacKenna honoured the man who 
" taught us to make butter and to defend our national 
soul and potentialities in the name of the Soul and the 
powers behind" j 1 "A. E." could appreciate the " ex- 
quisite labour " of MacKenna's workmanship in the 
Plotinus, with its long sentences that " keep their upward 
flight like great slow-moving birds." 2 And each prized 
the other's good opinion. 3 But the " Papist Celt " in 
MacKenna found " A. E." insensitive to many things 
which he himself valued in religion and in literature, 4 
while the northerner in " A. E." suspected, I fancy, some 
taint of insincerity in MacKenna's alternating moods of 
exaltation, despair, and flippant irony, 

MacKenna was by this time at the height of his conver- 
sational powers. " I am not a man of the pen," he wrote 
in 1913 to " A. E.": " I can say more in five minutes with 
my little tongue than with the longest fountain-pen in the 
world." And most of those who knew him well will agree 
that he talked, at his best, better than he ever wrote. In 
the period immediately before the war, and for some years 
after, there was as good conversation to be heard in 
Dublin as in any capital city in Europe ; but even 
Dublin critics found in MacKenna's talk the quality of 
genius. Unfortunately, like all really spontaneous expres- 
sion, it loses its flavour in the cold storage of print ; it 
depended for its perfection upon tone and gesture, the 

1 Letter 15. a " A. E." in The Irish Statesman, December 6, 1934. 
a Gf. letters IA, 37, 48, * Of. letter 15. 

Stephen MacKenna talking in a Pa: 


by-play of an eyelid, the instinctive emphasis of a pair of 
mobile hands. Its emotional range was amazing : it 
would soar passionately, without effort or affectation, then 
of a^ sudden swoop to earth on a note of mockery, like a 
chorus in Aristophanes. When he was moved by anger 
or awe or pity, MacKenna' s speech had such dignity and 
imaginative splendour as was achieved by no Irishman of 
his time save W. B. Yeats ; when his spirit was gay, it 
sprang delightedly into that world of comic phantasy 
whose other inhabitant was James Stephens. A good 
many aging Dubliners still treasure the recollection of a 
particular occasion during the war when MacKenna after 
a long disappearance turned up unexpectedly at "A. E." 's 
accustomed Sunday evening gathering. His wife had 
lain for weeks at death's door, and he had been too sick at 
heart to speak to anyone : now the doctors had pro- 
nounced her out of danger. Riding the wave of his re- 
leased emotion, he talked like a man inspired : one 
dazzling extravaganza after another held the company 
breathless. At two in the morning " A. E." went to bed, 
but most of the party adjourned to a neighbouring house, 
where the conversation continued till dawn. 

Society at all times acted as a powerful stimulant on 
MacKenna's brain, a stimulant which in his later years he 
dreaded and as far as possible avoided , alleging that it 
made him talk too much and too recklessly. " I never 
was able to behave like a reasonable being save en tSte 
tSte," he wrote towards the end of his life to Debenham. 
He detested being lionised. When he lived at Harrow, 
literary hostesses who tried to collect him as an exhibit 
for their menageries were met by an uncompromising 
refusal " Thank God," he would say with a shrug (for 
he was one of the few islanders who really used that ges- 
ture), " I have done with all this Lady business. 9 ' 

Between 1908 and 1913 the strain of leader-writing left 
MacKenna little energy to spare for the projected transla- 
tion of Plotinus. He had become too self-critical for daily 


journalism ; often he would waste many hours in polish- 
ing an unsatisfactory article destined to be forgotten as 
soon as read. " I am driven to death," he wrote in 1912, 
"with cram work on Persian politics, flying macljjnes, 
and the rest whereby I live/' He had brought with him 
from Paris rough MS. versions of considerable portions of 
the Enneads? and had at first spoken optimistically of 
" getting all ship-shape within a couple of years." There 
was no one to undeceive him, or to warn him against the 
enterprise into which he was being lured. At this time, 
so far as I know, he had among his acquaintance no single 
Greek scholar. There were in Trinity College plenty of 
men who knew Greek ; but they were reputed, with one 
or two distinguished exceptions, to be the sort of men of 
whom a Dublin wit remarked that " they read Homer 
for the grammar and the Irish Times for pleasure," a type 
uncongenial to MacKenna ; and it is in any case unlikely 
that any of them knew much or cared much about 

Be that as it may, MacKenna was left to discover gradu- 
ally for himself the overwhelming difficulties of his self- 
imposed task : to discover that the syntax and word- 
usage of Plotinus was a practically unexplored field ; 
that not a dozen people in Europe understood the details 
of his system ; that the text printed in the two German edi- 
tions of 1878 and 1883 (the best available until the Bud6 
edition began to appear in 1924) was in very many 
passages neither Greek nor sense ; and that the scholars 
of the world were holding their hand from either rc~ 
editing or translating Plotinus because they dared not risk 
their professional reputations in pioneering this vast tract 
of dangerous and notoriously difficult territory. " If 
there are to-day perhaps only twenty or thirty men alive 
who can read this author after a fashion, that is mainly 
due to the present state of Plotinian studies, which are at 

1 Most of these he eventually burned unused, as their inadequacy became 
clear to him. 


the stage reached centuries ago in the study of Plato. We 
have no adequate text, no commentary, no grammar, no 
lexicon ; no other great author of antiquity has been 
neglected to this degree." So wrote the leading German 
authority 1 on Plotinus as recently as 1930. Before the 
war there existed no readable translation of Plotinus in 
any language, and none with any pretentions to accuracy 
save the literal German rendering of H. F. Mueller an 
honest piece of journeywork, but one which in difficult 
passages merely reproduces the obscurity of the original. 

MacKenna's notion of translation was quite other than 
Mueller's. He recognised that with an author like 
Plotinus literal translation, useful as a scholar's tool, was 
useless to the modern reader whom he had in mind. To 
make such a version was for him only the first step in the 
translator's task. He must not rest until he had " carried 
over " every nuance of his author's meaning, emotional 
as well as logical, into the idiom of another language ; 
and that idiom must be rich, flexible, dignified, above all 
contemporary his most furious expressions of contempt 
were reserved for what he called (in a note written on the 
flyleaf of Tucker's Choephoroe) " the Verrall-Jebb pseudo- 
grand days-of-yore-ish sham." 2 He had put himself to 
school with the great translators, from Chapman to 
Wilamowitz, and he could not be satisfied with a less 
achievement than theirs. 

It was in January 1912 that E. R. Debenham, 3 who 
was a total stranger to MacKenna but had admired the 
experimental version of the essay On Beauty, wrote to 
ask him when the complete Plotinus might be expected. 
He explained in reply that he could not give consecutive 
time to the undertaking. " At best," he added, " I work 
very slowly ; and nothing would induce me to put out 

1 Richard Harder, Plotim Sdirljten, i. p. vii* 

2 Gf. his judgement on Butcher and Lang's Odyuey, letter 51. On his own 
theory of translation see further letter 9. 

Now Sir Ernest Debenham. 


any shred of Plotinus with whose form I was not entirely 
satisfied at the moment of publication (I already regret 
some failures of style in that little sample). All I can do 
is to go on working slowly as opportunity offers, hoping 
some day to get the leisure the task really requires." 
Discovering to his astonishment that this fastidious scholar 
was a daily journalist without even a university degree, 
Debenham became interested. He promised to find 
MacKenna the means of publication, and presently 
offered him a subsidy sufficient to make him independent 
for a while of leader-writing. The subsidy MacKenna 
firmly refused : " I could not, or would not, take a penny 
from Plotinus as long as anyone, unless a speculative 
publisher, stood to lose from the enterprise/' When he 
was eventually persuaded to accept an advance payment 
he did so in the belief that it came not from his patron 
but from the publisher ; not until the first volume of the 
translation was in print did he understand that Debenham 
had financed its publication at his own risk. 

Debenham's intervention transferred the enterprise 
from the domain of the impossible to that of imaginable 
achievement. But fate, who does not care to sec men 
achieve the impossible, began at this point to play out her 
trumps, of which she held a long hand. 


The first blow fell when MacKenna was ordered to 
hospital for an urgent and dangerous operation the 
removal of a mastoid. It was successfully performed, but 
his recovery was slow, and he had not (so far as I can 
gather) long returned to work when the symptoms of 
acute neurasthenia began to show themselves agonising 
headaches, sleeplessness or tormenting dreams, aboulia, 
inability to concentrate, and some loss of muscular control 
which caused him more than once to collapse on the pave- 


ment as he walked. These symptoms, which were to be 
his intimate enemies for the next ten years, he very natur- 
ally regarded as after-effects of his recent operation : to 
the end of his life he used to allege half seriously that the 
surgeons had cut away the best piece of his brain. Actu- 
ally, while his lowered physical vitality no doubt favoured 
the emergence of the trouble, its real causes must have 
lain further back in his history. Mastoid operations do 
not make neurasthenics ; moreover, the man who wrote 
the journal of 1907-9 was already, as it seems to me, 
spiritually maladif. There is little mention in it of 
physical ailments, though he is " not sure of his health " ; x 
but the psychological weaknesses which tormented him in 
later life are already recognised there, sometimes with 
bitter self-contempt. They are the characteristic weak- 
nesses of his type : the same weaknesses which an earlier 
introspective, H. F. Amiel, observed both in himself and 
in his predecessor Maine de Eiran " indecision, discour- 
agement, over-dependence on sympathy, inability to finish 
things, the habit of watching oneself feel and live, and the 
growing incapacity for practical action." 2 Physical ill- 
health no doubt aggravated these tendencies in Mac- 
Kenna, as it has done in others ; and it was to him, as to 
Maine de Biran, " most disquieting " to find his psycho- 
logical states varying as a function of his physical condi- 
tion. 3 But fortunately for himself he had one quality 
which most of the great introspectives conspicuously 
lacked, namely the sense of humour. It did not save him 
from periods of neurasthenia ; it did not always enable 
him to resist accesses of childish rage or humiliating self- 
pity ; but it made impossible for him any continuous or 
habitual yielding to such moods. 

In the autumn of 1913 MacKenna's doctor persuaded 
him to abandon his work and go to London for treatment 
by Dr. T. W. Mitchell. Marie and he gave up their 

1 April 1 1, 1907. * Journal of H. F. Amiel, June 17, 1857. 
8 Letter 8 ; cf. Maine de Biran, Journal, ii. p. 340, etc. 


Dublin house, and after a short visit to Paris they found a 
little flat in Kensington Square, " five minutes from Ken- 
sington Gardens where the dear dead Queen was born 

It is not central if you make learning or life your centre 
't is a whole twopence from the flame of the theatres but 
it is central when, as me, you make peace your centre and 
must see sheep and dead leaves." 1 Here MacKenna 
passed an anxious winter of enforced idleness. He feared 
that he would never again be fit for work : " Guard your 
health even more than your virtue," he wrote to Bodkin ; 
" the one you can get back a volonte, the other never," 
His wife, feeling that he had " too much time to think/' 
tried to take him into interesting society : among other 
people, they met at this time Epstein, Marinctti (who in 
Mrs. MacKenna's opinion " looked a brute "), and J. C. 
Squire. The first meeting with Squire was arranged by 
J. M. Hone at his house in Chelsea, an old Queen Anne 
house (now destroyed) where Tonks and Orpcn had 
lived. Squire set down his memory of it twenty years 
later : 

" Few men ever made so great an impression on me at 
first sight [as MacKenna]. He had tousled dark hair, a 
slight moustache, and brooding eyes : in a dim-lit room 
he looked into the fire and talked. He talked in imagery, 
and talked without posing : without any of that self- 
consciousness of charm which often accompanies Irish (or 
indeed any) charm. Sitting with him, one forgot the con- 
temporary world, and explored all the abysses of Space 
and Time or, rather, he did for nobody wanted to 
interrupt him when, with the firelight illuminating his 
beautiful meditative brow, he talked, as it were to him- 
self, in the loveliest imagery, about the bewilderment of 
the human soul in this mysterious universe, with which 
we find it so difficult to cope." 2 

Evidently this was one of MacKenna's good days. In 
the surviving letters of this period he is, I think, rarely at 

1 Letter to Thomas Bodkin. a London Mercury, May 1934. 


his best : he writes like a sick man, and his gaiety has 
often a forced note. His health was in fact making little 
improvement, and early in 1914, on Dr. Mitchell's advice, 
he entered a sanatorium for nervous cases in Kent. The 
treatment here did him good, and presently he expressed 
a hope that he would eventually emerge " as one of those 
innocent-faced blue-eyed old fellows with lovely white 
locks who always look as if their mother bathed them and 
put them to bed at six after hearing their prayers/' l On 
leaving the sanatorium he began to make plans for the 
future. His friends in Dublin pressed him to return : 
" Ireland seems a thin kind of place," wrote " A. E.," 
" with folk like you and Stephens out of it." Stephens, on 
the other hand, suggested that the MacKennas should join 
him in Paris ; and they might have done so but for the 
outbreak of war. 

MacKenna and his wife did not react alike to the war. 
Mrs. MacKenna was for a time carried away, not so much 
by the flood of British patriotic fervour as by a strong 
sympathy for the France where she had spent her happiest 
years. She disapproved at first of Irish neutrality, and in 
1915 she was writing anxiously to her friends in Ireland 
about " the awful advance of the Germans." Her hus- 
band, on the other hand, viewed the war primarily as a 
good European, and secondly as an Irishman, From the 
former standpoint it meant to him overwhelming and 
senseless disaster, whichever side won ; from the latter, 
he saw in it a fresh threat to the integrity of Ireland. He 
deplored the recruiting activities into which men like 
Arthur Lynch had suddenly flung themselves. " We 
never did fry our own fish," he wrote to an Irish friend 
during the first winter of the war, " but did be always 
jumping into the fire to yank out the herrings for the other 
man and small leavings to ourselves when that one had 
them gozzled." 

In the exasperated condition of his nerves he was reluc- 

1 Letter to Thomas Bodkin, spring 1914. 


tant to return to a Dublin infected with war fever. " I 
am glad I'm not in Ireland just now/' he wrote, " because 
I could hardly hope to keep one friend, and I want to keep 
'em all." He was still far from well physically, and here 
was talk of another operation. The drain on his savings 
was heavy ; his wife's income, already diminished through 
unfortunate investments, was still farther reduced as a 
result of the war. They moved restlessly from one cheap 
boarding-house to another. " I get tired beyond speech 
of grinning and chattering, and really lose the health in a 
vain effort to appear young and gay and friendly and 
affable and obliging and pleasant and courteous and in 
general like a banjo which I'm not. You know the banjo : 
it says tink-a-tink all the time and is welcome in every 
boarding-house which again I'm not." l In the autumn 
they went to Hove. The prime motive was economy, but 
MacKenna was delighted by the change. " I am en- 
chanted by the sea," he wrote to Debenham : " somehow 
I never felt it before except as a cold flat stretch of grey 
dampness : I used to read Swinburne's sea-hymns with 
a dull astonishment : now I feel the sea, its spell of magic ; 
above all, the sense that at the seaside you live completely, 
seeing all the elements, land and sea and over all a great 
sky that you never knew inland even in the widest and 
barest park* It has been a sort of revelation to me, and 
at lowest a great peace, a quiet wonder." Again and 
again he attempted to resume work on Plotinus, and 
although the result was always to kindle " a little cerebral 
hell-fire " he clung fast to the project. " I do feel all the 
same," he told Debenham, " that I will bring out this 
great thing for my little life's work." In the spring of 
1915 they moved to rooms in Hampstead, and spent much 
time sun-bathing on the Heath. By July Mrs. MacKenna 
reported Stephen's health substantially improved. As he 
gained strength he became home-sick for Ireland, and in 
the early autumn they returned to Dublin. 

1 To Bodkin, 


MacKenna did not resume his position as leader-writer 
on the Freeman. That journal had followed Redmond in 
urging Irishmen to enlist : MacKenna disagreed, and 
once again sacrificed his livelihood to his conscience : 
" how could I work for it," he wrote to a friend, " when 
all its sympathies are English ? " Eventually, he ex- 
pressed his willingness to contribute articles " from the 
outside " (and therefore ill paid), sticking to non-contro- 
versial subjects. But his main energies were henceforth 
given to Plotinus. His health remained precarious* He 
had to sleep in the afternoon and keep early hours : "if 
I don't, I crumple up, look corpselike, fall about the 
place, and wish for a speedy death. I almost pray for it, 
but that I e think nobly of prayer ' and would not use it 
for such personal whims/' l Money was very short : 
" we are desperately hard up," he confessed to Debenham, 
" live outwardly very well and inwardly very poorly, and 
can't get even a week's country change." The suburban 
house which he had taken on his return had soon to be 
given up for reasons of expense, and in 1917 he and Marie 
found a home in " a lovely little flat, quite howlingly 
swell " in one of the dignified Georgian houses of Merrion 
Square. He liked to live thus " in the heart of the little 
city," where he could step across the road to the National 
Library even on days when he felt too weak to venture far. 2 

To MacKenna, as to almost all those not actually con- 
cerned in organising it, the rising of 1916 came with the 
shock of complete surprise. He had indeed envisaged 
eight years earlier the possibility of such action, and 
defended its justice : " even a sage," he wrote, " might 
to-day take to arms for Ireland, if there were any hope 
that way." 3 Although he was never, so far as I can ascer- 
tain, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or 
any similar organisation, he was steeped in the Fenian 

1 Letter to Debenham, c. 1916. 

2 Letters to Debenham and Mrs. Robert MacKenna, 1917. 

3 See Journal for February 14, 1908. 


tradition : he had sat at the feet of O'Leary and Davitt, 
and he counted among his personal friends such men as 
Arthur Griffith, Thomas MacDonagh and Eamonn 
Ceannt, leaders of the new Sinn Fein party (as \yell as 
pacifists like Sheehy Skeffington and moderate nation- 
alists like Edmund Curtis). But he was not in the inner 
councils of the movement. On that singular Easter 
Monday he stood among the bewildered crowd in O'Con- 
nell Street and heard Padraic Pearse read the Proclama- 
tion of the Irish Republic to the accompaniment of " a 
few thin, perfunctory cheers." 1 He stood there for many 
hours, wrestling with his thoughts. Austin Clarke, the 
Irish poet and novelist, has sent me this memory of him: 
" It was about five o'clock in the afternoon of Easter 
Monday when I met Stephen MacKcnna by chance in the 
middle of O'Connell Street, directly opposite the G.P.O. 
A restless, difficult crowd was gathered at the corner of 
Earl Street, and a few volunteers, armed with rifles and 
in full green uniform, were endeavouring to keep order. 
As I made my way through the scattered groups beyond 
the crowd, I saw Stephen MacKenna alone in a little 
space, lost in his thoughts and indifferent to those about 
him. He was leaning weakly against an electric tram 
standard, but he greeted me in his quick, sad way. He 
told me that he had hurried down that morning as soon 
as he heard the news, and that he had been there all day. 
He looked terribly ill ; his face was deadly pale, and it 
was obvious that only the intensity of his own feelings and 
of the event itself sustained him. The Post Office was 
already cold and grey in the shadows, and beyond passing 
heads I could see, almost obscured by the great pillars, 
the watchful figures of armed men at the sand-bagged 
windows. But clearly against the bright, blue sky above 
the roof rose the flag of the Irish Republic declared that 
morning. MacKenna said little to me, nor could much 
have been said. Thought and emotion could find no 

1 Memories of the Dead, p. 20. 


other end for themselves than the words 6 at last \ Cer- 
tainly neither of us mentioned any of those friends who, 
as we knew, must be at their posts opposite us or some- 
whej;e else in the city. The historic hour existed with all 
its secret, countless memories of the past, in and of itself, 
so that even the feeling of suspense and of coming disaster 
seemed to belong to a lesser experience of reality. It is 
difficult now perhaps to recapture that emotion and 
thought from which even the crowd, dimly hostile or 
perhaps taken by total surprise, was scarcely a distraction. 
It has become quite easy to forget how completely the 
country had drifted away from its own individuality and 
national life mainly I fancy from mere indolence and 
avoidance of self-responsibility. It is easy to forget how 
greatly the few awakeners were hated and abused. As I 
stood silently beside Stephen MacKenna, I was increas- 
ingly aware not only of that supreme event but of the 
terrible and painful emotion in his few broken words 
from time to time. I was still a student, and I had a 
healthy respect both for his scholarship and for the wilful 
anger which I had once innocently drawn upon myself. 
His tormented exaltation, though I secretly understood 
it, filled me with a superstitious alarm for him. Realising 
that his wife and others might be already searching for 
him, and calling suddenly to mind the imminent danger 
in the city, I tried to persuade him to leave. But by then 
he had almost forgotten my presence. After some futile 
and timid efforts, for I feared to irritate him, I went away 
full of compunction, leaving him to his thoughts." 

It was later in the week on the Tuesday or may- 
be the Wednesday that MacKenna, propped on a stick 
(for he was half crippled that day with rheumatism), 
returned to O'Gonnell Street, approached the portico 
of the G.P.O. where a handful of men were still facing 
the certainty of defeat and the all-but-certainty of death 
or long imprisonment, and for the second time in his life 
proposed himself as a volunteer in the service of an 


oppressed nationality. Perceiving no doubt the useless- 
ness of the sacrifice for he was unarmed and untrained, 
even had he been physically fit to handle a weapon the 
commandant rejected his offer. MacKenna hobbled 
away to brood on his own futility. 1 A few days afterwards, 
while he and Mrs. MacKenna were staying with his 
cousin, William Kelly, the house was searched for arms 
by the military. It proved to contain a number of rifles, 
the property of the Irish Volunteers, and all the occupants 
were arrested ; but the MacKennas were released as soon 
as it was established that they were merely passing guests. 
A year or so later there appeared in Dublin a pamphlet 
on the men of Easter Week, entitled Memories of the Dead, 
by an otherwise unknown ce Martin Daly." MacKenna' s 
authorship of this booklet, suspected at the time, seems 
to me certain both on grounds of style and from the fact 
that after his death there was found among his papers a 
list of the " cuts 9> made by the British censor in " Martin 
Daly's " manuscript. 2 Memories of the Dead is an unpre- 
tentious little work : its object was to preserve for future 
historians some lineaments of the men whose blood was 
to be the seed of the new Ireland not only of such as 
Pearsc and MacDonagh, whom all the world had learned 
to know, but of humbler soldiers like Tom Clarke, the 
little old tobacconist of Parnell Street, and Peadar 
O'Mcacin, a tradesman who " died for his ideal of Ireland 
as simply and instinctively as other men follow a bent 
towards a study or a pastime." The pamphlet is now 
rare, 3 and the reader may like to see a sample of its 
manner. The passage which follows is characteristic in 
its mixture of gentle mockery and imaginative exaltation. 

I This story rests on the evidence of a single informant, but I know no 
reason for dismissing it as fiction. MacKenna was not the man to boast 
at large of his patriotism, 

II Some of these are exceedingly quaint : thus a reference to insurgents 
who were shot " in the chill of a barrack yaid " appears to have hurt 
official pride the words " the chill of** were deleted I 

3 1 am indebted to " Seuinas O'Sulhvan '* for procuring me sight of a copy. 


" I cannot quite think of the pipes with the calm 
acceptance one offers the violin or even the flute. When 
a long, grave man well dressed, of religious mien, a 
native philosopher and mystic, showing in his luminous face 
and solemn presence the race of which he is sealedstands 
massively on the platform of a garishly-lighted hall before a 
vast audience that has just been yelling with exaltation and 
defiance over political speeches ; when with thoughtful de- 
liberation he takes the pipes from a gill, arranges the curious 
tubes and bags, elaborately tunes, solemnly begins to play - 
why, may the outraged spirit of the ancient Ireland ab- 
solve me such a sight would normally make me smile. 

" None the less : 

" One of my cherished memories is of Eamonn Ceannt 
piping just so at the Ancient Concert Rooms a short time 
before the Rebellion. There had been eloquent harangu- 
ing, fiery response from the Hall, the thrill of an Ireland 
resurgent to virile plans and passionate hopes. During an 
interval princely Eamonn rose before the people, gathered 
his bags and tubes under his wing, tuned, played : and 
even then, not foreseeing even dimly how soon the desper- 
ate effort, the tragic end, was corning, even then I felt 
very sharply, like a knife slashing between the bones, that 
he stood in some quite rare way as the symbol of the times. 
So gravely, so religiously piping, piping as it were without 
enthusiasm, as a duty, as a solemn declaration of faith, 
almost ritually, he appeared before my mind as the grave 
ghost of the old Ireland rising to haunt the new and to 
awe it into homage and obedience. I do not know 
whether Eamonn piped well that night or whether he ever 
could pipe well ; I know only that long ago he lamented 
humorously the tragedy it was in one's life to take up the 
crustiest and most personally unbiddable of instruments ; 
but I know that that solemnest of all Irish pipers stands 
and will long stand before my mind like some colossal 
work of sculpture, some Mestrovich figure full of the 
entire meaning of a racial existence." 


The emotion which the events of Easter week roused in 
MacKenna found expression also in another form. In 
July 1916 there appeared in the Gaelic journal An Claid- 
heamh one of his very rare experiments in verse, a transla- 
tion in the original metre of " The Merchant's Son " by 
Aoghan O'Rahilly (c. 1670-1740). It is introduced by 
the following note : 

" fi The Merchant's Son ' may be taken to mean any 
such Saviour of Nationality from over-sea as the Gaelic 
Ireland of the I7th and early i8th century was ceaselessly 
awaiting. ... A good deal, though not all, of the intri- 
cate Irish rhyme has been reproduced ; but any charm 
the version may have will be felt only on reading aloud 
and pronouncing the vowels with an Irish robustness, not 
with the mincing and slurring of Sunday-parlour ele- 
gance. The rhythm in the English here depends wholly 
on stress, no count having been taken of the number of 
syllables making up the foot. The translator has used, 
substantially, the Dinneen-Torna text (Irish Texts 
Society, 191 1)." 


A Vision sharp, limned on the dark, as I sink at heart for our 

smitten Queen : 
It brings her past me, with singing and laughter, in winning 

mastery of her skimming steed ; 
Deep eyes aglow, sweet life aflow, all stately ripe in maiden 

She tells the coming of The Merchant's Son with Spanish rage 

and steel. 


Sweet her talk, her speech was soft ; my heart's love aye the 

dreaming maid ; 
Ruler of Brian that schooled the Fiann my grief to-day for a 

Queen's sad fate 
Under foreign yoke and murder's stroke, my flesh and bone 

in the Regal Race ! 
" But there's help to come ; The Merchant's Son will proudly 

run to my feet again 1 " 



The thousands are pining, worn down by their sighing and 

bound to their dying for the face of their Queen ; 
Princes are grieving, Claim Milea is keening, strong wills are 

leaping to raise her to freedom ; 
But her doom holds her fast and the gloom will ne'er pass 

oh, the brooding will last " Till the day we shall see, 
When The Merchant's Son o'er the waters shall come and the 

sorrowful face will be gleaming ! " 


Woeful the tale ; thrown down her fame ; lonely the eve of 
her day, 

Of music bereft, few helpers left, where her clans were once 
cheerful and brave ; 

Her holies all wrecked ; her soul in the net ; no fool but may 
leer in her face, 

Unmated, undone " Till, one day, shall come The Mer- 
chant's Son to my gates ! " 

The tall sons she cherished have fallen, all perished ; gone are 

the stately and free, 
Conn and Art, that governed stark and won their part in 

raging fields, 
Grffan strong that held Galll in bonds, Luleach macCheln the 

Hope there is none " Till The Merchant's Son o'er the 

waters sails for me ! " 


By the shore of ships our Mourner sits, poring southward upon 

the sea ; 
Her baulked eye flits to the Eastern ridge and searches it 

wistfully ; 
Naught stirs : " O God ! But the Western rirn . . . ? Is there 

naught but the sand and the spray ? '* 
Thus her heart is wrung " Till The Merchant's Son shall 

muster his heroes from Spain ! " 



Her kin all broken that still wore her Token, who filled up the 

sweet of her day, 
No banquet is set, no flagon is wet, no lad in the land will 

meet maid ; 
For love's sky is clouded, frolic is fouled in ill-come crape and 

keening ; 
" But I trust in the coming of The Merchant's Son with 

thudding drums to relieve me ! " 


Thus high burned her hope. But stern I spoke : " Return ? 

Mo vron, he is clay ! 
The dirge in Spain has surged for your brave ; unheard is 

your wail, my liege, this day ! " 
Woe with the word ! prone on the earth, bemoaning her 

dearth, my Heart's Dream lay ! 
The Merchant's Son will never come ; will no other one serve 

my Queen, for aye ? 

Meanwhile, despite political distractions and the state 
of MacKenna's health, the Plotinus crept forward. There 
were endless difficulties with Lee Warner, the publisher, 
who after some correspondence with MacKenna decided 
that he was " as mad as a hatter/* and told Debcnham so. 
More than once the whole scheme threatened to break 
down. MacKenna on his side was frantic with impatience : 
" I feel the delay," he wrote, " eating at my heart like 
some fat rat inside me." Finally in 1917 the first of the 
five tall volumes saw the light. The luxurious and costly 
format was not MacKenna's own choice : ** my own 
feeling," he told Debenham, " has always been that 
poetry should be published at 6d, a volume, and Pd like 
Plotinus at half a crown/' The book was respectfully 
treated by the reviewers, and received warm praise from 
Inge and the one or two other Englishmen who were 
competent to assess it as a work of scholarship ; but the 
reading public in 1917 had little interest in expensive 


translations of Greek philosophers, and the sales were, to 
MacKenna 5 s naive surprise, exceedingly small. 

He swallowed his disappointment and worked on at the 
preparation of the next volume. But the conditions of 
life were becoming more and more difficult* The war 
now weighed on him like a nightmare l ; and if the attempt 
were made to enforce conscription in Ireland against the 
Irish conscience he foresaw " a bitterness that will rage 
for a century.' ' In 1 9 1 7 he had a serious return of neuras- 
thenic symptoms, and before the end of that year Mrs, 
MacKenna too fell ill and was " hurried out for an urgent 
dangerous kill or cure operation which neither killed nor 
cured." As soon as MacKenna was well enough he had 
to immerse himself in journalism to meet the doctors 5 
bills and the now steeply rising cost of living. " We have 
been in dire straits/' he wrote about this time : " for a 
while we were obliged to go very short indeed, even on 
food not quite enough of the very simplest only when 
we both got very ill did we rise out of that economy, 
eating, in a grim recklessness, enough to save the health." 
It was at this point, I think, that Debenham intervened 
and persuaded MacKenna to accept an arrangement by 
which for each volume of the Plotinus he received a pay- 
ment of 250 in advance of publication. 

In the autumn of 1918, Mrs. MacKenna had a fresh 
illness, which was doubtfully diagnosed as an obscure 
variation of Addison's disease. For several months she 
lay between life and death, much of the time in great 
pain. " We have had four nurses in the houselet," says a 
letter of this period, " and last sacraments all over the 
place." A further operation, in January 1919, was 
thought for a time to have been successful ; in March she 
was pronounced out of danger, though she was " still 
quite incapable, a mere whimpering yellow ghost/' But 
six months later the dreaded symptoms reappeared ; once 
more she was " almost continuously in danger all the 
1 Of, letters 4, 6 and 8. 


winter through," and MacKenna was again confronted 
with the alternative of " the double relay of nurses, or the 
fantastically dear nursing home with its horrors of bullying 
ladies who terrify my poor old ghost of a wife." In June 
1920 he wrote " The poor old lady thinks she is at last 
convalescent : the doctor tells me she is incurable and is 
merely c enjoying ' a respite. 95 

Meanwhile he was driving himself to continue the 
Plotinus work, though his organism revolted against it ; 
he had " constant hot pain and axe-split head by day, and 
the most appalling dreams by night," " at times such queer 
things going on up aloft that I have feared my brain was 
going." 1 His forced efforts rarely brought him satisfac- 
tion. " I'm plodding on with Plotinus," he says in an- 
other letter, " at what is often the loth rewriting : the 
quick flash is gone out of my brain for ever ; all the little 
I get is by toil, mosaic- work, smoothing, planing." He 
was in despair at his failure to make progress and carry 
out his undertaking to Debenham : GC it burns shamefully 
in my brain that I have had so much and done so noth- 
ing." 2 He would gladly have abandoned the enterprise, 
but felt bound in honour to continue : 

" I have bitterly deplored my ever entering into a con- 
tract, and I abhor myself for having taken your money, 
not only that personal subsidy but also the expenses of 
publication. Even in journalism I was never bound 
before : I always refused to contract for a certain number 
of words or any service at all ; I went to all my Russias 
and Swedens and Hungaries and the rest on the strict 
understanding that I sent what I liked and when I liked, 
and that if the editors did not get full satisfaction I must 
be allowed to resign at their nod with the full honours of 
war* ... I had arranged with my wife that once she 
got over the danger-point we were to take no more of this 
money ; but there's the past and there's the contract, 

1 Letters to Debenham 5 July 1919 and June 1920, 
* Letter to Debenham, March 14, 1919. 


And there are the people who bought the first volume on 
the pledge of the rest to come duly." 1 

In the end the second volume was finished somehow. 
It appeared in 1 92 1 . MacKenna had thought of inserting 
in it an announcement that reasons of health prevented 
further publication, and paying back the subsidy by 
degrees ; but Debenham succeeded in dissuading him. 

With the shootings of 1920 and the British campaign of 
terror in 1921 national anxieties were added to domestic 
ones ; life became " a daily and nightly burden of horror 
and doubt, personal and public." MacKenna believed 
the policy of armed resistance to be justified 2 ; but he 
dreaded the increasing spiritual degradation of a war of 
reprisals. " My dear horrible Ireland, our beautiful 
people so soiled. . . . Even the noblest Englishman could 
never understand the distinctions, reservations, allowances 
Fd feel obliged to make. ... In the long run, all comes 
down to the elementary bedrock fact that civilised and 
moral instinct is just snuffed out when, rightly or wrongly, 
a people (or in extreme cases a single individual) feels 
the call of self-preservation against an unwarranted cur- 
tailment or denial of liberty." 3 He repeatedly urged 
Debenham to use his influence in favour of a settlement. 
" Even though England can crush Ireland to pulp," he 
wrote in 1921, " Ireland would still rise a nasty ghost and 
a persistent worry, for generations to come. Pulp does 
not settle anything where there is an immortal spirit to 
be reckoned with." 

Throughout 1921 MacKenna, like a great number of 
other people in Ireland, lived in nightly expectation of 
being raided and arrested. 4 In March he had a narrow 
escape, which is thus described in a letter to Debenham : 

" The other day I, as many others every day, was 
seized and pawed and shaken three times, exactly like a 
child, and yelled at and threatened with arrest for a crime 

* Letter to Debenham, July 1919 Cf. also letter 1 1 . 8 Cf. letter 13. 
8 Letter to Debenham, March 34, 1920. 4 Cf. letter 14. 


of which I was utterly unconscious : I had looked at a 
group of men (i I o'clock of the forenoon in College Green, 
the live centre of Dublin), who it appears were disguised 
detectives ; had I lost my balance and been either too 
grovelling or too impudent, I would certainly have been 
dragged to jail, discovered to be carrying an Irish book 
two in fact, the Bedell Bible and a book of verse and 
I would be in jail still untried." 

Later in the year it was thought that an oath of alle- 
giance would be imposed. MacKenna could not take 
such an oath, and he made all arrangements against the 
event of his being imprisoned or interned as a non-juror. 
Debenham counselled him to leave the country, but he 
replied that this would be cowardice : " The purely 
negative service of my poor presence and my * non ser- 
viam ' the admirable thing the devil said in some Psalm 
or other holy book that purely negative service I could 
no more in conscience, the deepest and most sacred, 
refuse than I could expect you to bow to the Irish republi- 
can flag. I only hope/ 9 he added, " that you feel as I do 
that underneath or above? all these intense national 
differences there may always be a deep personal regard in 
the realm of peace. ' I fought him, and fight him, bitterly 
on the lower levels, but we are in deep love above it all,' 
said Nietzsche of Wagner. 5 ' 

That autumn Mrs. MacKenna was temporarily a little 
better again, and in the hope of preventing or postponing 
another relapse it was decided that she should spend the 
winter in Switzerland with two cousins of her husband. 
The flat in Merrion Square was disbanded, and MacKenna 
moved first into rooms in Dublin, then to country lodgings 
at Enniskerry. He was at Enniskerry when the Ddil met 
to debate the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the men who had 
been working side by side for Irish freedom found them* 
selves of a sudden divided into two bitterly opposed camps 
<c Free-Staters " and Republicans. To the surprise of 
many of his friends, MacKenna declared himself un- 


hesitatingly for repudiation of the Treaty. His reasons 
are set forth in two long letters to Debenham (Nos. 16 and 
17). I add here some extracts from a yet longer letter 
whi^h he wrote at the same date to an Irish supporter of 
the Treaty : 

" I would even now accept this agreement if only it 
brought us an un-British freedom just left the question 
of membership in abeyance, went on the unexpressed 
assumption that we were members and adherent though 
I admit that in that case I wish we were even a little less 
sovran : if one means to do a man in the eye one would 
rather not get too much out of him before the happy day 
of the doing arrives. . . . I'm horrified when I think that 
we are asked to save even the language by the path of a 
declaration of * adherence to and membership of . . .' 
The language is interesting and lovely in itself and in its 
potentialities as well as its stored values, but so is Arabic : 
I value the language not least because it says Givis 
Britannicus non sum ; in an Ireland which should say 
'O'Neil is a Briton, MacCarha, O'Brien, O'Murachu 
Britons,' I don't see any sense in the language except as 
there is in Greek, Sanscrit, Bantu* , . . The end of the 
historic Ireland should be the end of Irish, just as the 
Maori end was the end of the Maori lingo. ... If the 
people of Ireland like being British I can only spew them 
out as I out-spew any Briton or they spew me out as an 
offence and a danger to the body or soul of Ireland. Of 
course if we are many thus spewed out, it becomes a 
question which is spew and which is body : perhaps 
we Repudiators are not a spew but a birth who 
knows ? " 

For a few unhappy weeks MacKenna felt that he must 
abandon Plotinus, at least temporarily, and throw himself 
into a whirlwind campaign against the Treaty. But it 
presently became clear that his fellow-republicans in- 
tended to adopt methods of which he could not approve : 
he had hoped for " constitutional work for freedom, 


either by advocacy only or by c passive resistance.' " 1 
The civil war of 1922 filled him with shame and grief. 
There was no place for such a man in the Ireland of the 
gunmen. While, however, he was revolted by r the 
brutalities that were committed in the name of republi- 
canism, he was, and remained to the end of his life, 
" impenitently republican." 2 " Take notice," he wrote 
to Curtis in the autumn of 1922, " that I abhor now and 
for ever amen the free state 3 as the abomination of desola- 
tion seated in the High Places ; and if, now or ever, any- 
one says ' S. M. K. has verted,' then kindly spit in his 
right eye, kick him to the ground, kick him on the ground, 
dance on him, and cry in a loud voice * Here lies a liar.' " 
But he never extended to individual supporters of the 
Free State his serio-comic indignation against the regime : 
his friendship with men like Curtis and myself continued 
unbroken, and " A. E." remained for him " a noble 
gentleman despite his utter inability to see our republican 
point of view." 4 

After his abortive excursion into politics MacKenna 
resumed work on the next Ennead. For a time it went 
well : " the present revision is joyful/' he reports to 
Debenham ; " it is the divine Plotinus again." Mrs. 
MacKenna had returned from Switzerland convinced 
that she was cured at last, and they found quarters in 
Dundrum, a village close to Dublin. But by the summer 
she was once more bedridden, and her husband's old 
incapacity had reappeared : " there are weeks during 
which I can't hold the thread of an argument in my head 
at all." 5 For what was to be the last winter of her life 
she was sent to Bournemouth, while MacKenna, by her 
wish, remained in Dublin. " Distance from such things 
helps a lot," she wrote from Bournemouth to Debenham : 

1 Letter 20. a Lottei si. 

a MacKenna refused even th<* dignity of initial capitals to thin detested 

* Letter to Curtis, 19124 or 19^5. fi Letter ao. 


" he cannot possibly worry so much over there, with 
cheerful letters (one learns to invent cheerfulness) from 
one every day." But on Christmas Day, 1922, she took a 
ne\^ turn for the worse, and MacKenna hurried across 
from Dublin : " I will never again be 12 hours away 
from her ; her long sufferings and bitter disappointments 
have earned her all the help and comfort one human 
being can give another." x Presently he fetched his MSS. 
from Ireland and attempted to carry on his work, " trying 
to finish the book in snatches at the nursing home and in 
my own room." Marie's struggle for life lasted another 
six months, " always on the brink of danger, often given 
up, always battling back to a condition in which she just 
lives, too weak to be even lifted from bed to a low chair 
for a change of view." She died on July 4, 1923, and 
Stephen went back to his earliest Dublin home, his aunts' 
little house in Rathmines, to bury himself in Plotinus and 
to tend the ailing survivor of the two Dresden china ladies. 
" If the doctor thinks well of it," he wrote to his mother, 
66 I'll hire a bath-chair and push her about for half an 
hour or so on a fine day as I hoped to push my own old 

His immediate reaction to his wife's death was, as might 
be expected, a sense of release. But the strain of the last 
years had exhausted his courage and vitality, and in the 
months that followed he came, I think, nearer to complete 
mental collapse than ever before. Whenever he ventured 
into society he broke down. " As time goes on," he 
wrote to me that autumn, " I get madder, not calmer, 
and I make disgraceful manifestations of grief or of nerve- 
wrack, and go away worse than ever in myself." " No 
religion or philosophy has any validity over my trouble, 
nothing gives any value to life," he told Dcbenham. 2 The 
new instalment of Plotinus was nearly ready, but it 
brought him no comfort. Like its predecessor, it had 
been done, as he said, " in isolated strips while my wife 
1 Letter 92. a Letter 30, 


was five years a-dying and all a bleak muddle round me "; 
and in his depression it seemed to him impossibly bad. 
He now saw the whole enterprise as a hideous blunder : 
cc It is not through my own fault that I am, in the feet, 
what I think I most loathe of all things, a humbug in 
scholarship. I took up, honestly, what was beyond my 
powers ; I was taken up by others, and am caught in a 
net." l He refused to accept more money from Deben- 
ham, and reverted to the idea of handing over the 
Plotinus to someone else and paying off, by a return to 
journalism, what he persisted in calling his " debt of 
honour " to his patron, 2 A little later, after the death of 
his surviving aunt in February 1924, he offered, if Deben- 
ham would release him, to use the scanty inheritance 
which had come to him to pay a professional scholar for 
doing the work, leaving himself an income of between 
two and three pounds a week, on which he proposed to 
retire to some Irish-speaking village in Connaught. 


It was, I believe, Debenham's action at this point 
which saved MacKenna's health and sanity ; he sum- 
moned him peremptorily to England and insisted on 
giving him a prolonged holiday in Dorset, Four months 
of complete quiet among green fields did much to restore 
his mental poise : "It has plucked me out of a slough of 
despond/' he tells Debenham, " and set me in the places 
of hope." And in fact the worst period of his life was 
now over. He had before him ten more years of poverty 
and recurrent illness, and for six of them his tired brain 
had still to battle with Plotinus ; but nothing that was 
to come was comparable with the agonies of the preceding 

He returned no more to Ireland. Apart from his dis- 
1 Letter to E. R. Dodds, 1923. * Letter 27. 


taste for the new regime, Dublin was, as he told Curtis, 
" too full of memories/' and he had too many acquaint- 
ances there his experiences in the last twelve months 
had ieft him with a morbid dread of society, especially the 
society of intellectuals. " I don't care a button," he 
wrote in 1929 to his brother Robert, " about intellectual 
people, in fact they frighten and bore me, except for 
James Stephens, who tho* eminent is the simplest and 
friendliest soul alive ; I would never care if I never met 
any living thing that had ever heard there had ever been 
an idea or a picture or a sonata in the world." To his 
surprise, he found the slow silent country folk of Dorset 
and Hampshire far more to his taste than the chatterers 
in Dublin drawing-rooms. " I admire the people of 
Hampshire immensely," he wrote to Curtis, " the plain 
people I mean, their dignity, mannerliness, comeliness ; 
and yet at times I look on them with amazed reprobation, 
and on myself, saying ' your people are not my people, 
nor are your gods my gods, and the Lord alone knows 
what the devil Pm doing among yez.* " 1 He continued 
to see a few of his older friends, but at increasingly long 
intervals. On the other hand he wrote more, and I think 
better, personal letters at this period than when he lived 
in Dublin. To some extent the pen now discharged what 
had been the office of the tongue : he had developed a 
highly individual epistolary style which kept the inflec- 
tions of the living voice. In the gay and nonsensical 
scribbles which on good days he would despatch to Curtis 
or some other friend the reader may come nearer than 
elsewhere to an apprehension of what MacKenna was 
like as a talker. 

He had a further reason, as he explains in a letter to 
Octavian MacKenna, for keeping out of Ireland. He had 
made up his mind formally and publicly to renounce 
Catholicism, and he wished, characteristically, to avoid 
embarrassing by his presence certain pious Catholic 
1 Of. also letter 49. 


friends in Dublin to whom he was henceforth a " rene- 
gade " and in effect an untouchable. Ireland is a country 
where, with the rarest exceptions, religious beliefs are 
still (a) inherited and (b) taken seriously almost as 
seriously as the political beliefs from which they are with 
difficulty separable. Hence MacKenna's " apostasy " 
really did cause surprise and scandal in Dublin. It was as 
though he had suddenly turned imperialist. I have even 
heard it charitably suggested that his brain had been 
addled by his sufferings and that for the last ten years of 
his life he was not fully responsible for his actions an 
interpretation to which the concluding volumes of the 
Plotinus and the later letters in the present book are 
surely a sufficient answer if any is needed. 

It is clear that the " apostasy " was not in fact that 
sudden renunciation of the beliefs of a lifetime for which 
it was mistaken. The tone of the 1897 Commonplace 
Book is already non-Christian, though the sentence which 
explicitly condemns Christianity may possibly be a later 
addition. And there is the Journal of 1907-9. After 
reading it, one asks not " Why did this man reject 
Catholicism ? " but " Why did he remain for so long a 
nominal Catholic?" In 1908, though he still attends 
mass and is still moved by " the beauty of the ceremonies 
and their old meaning," x he looks forward to a time when 
the religions, " with their neat promises of future re- 
dressing, 95 will have crumbled away and there will be 
only Religion " men going in the evenings with eyes 
downcast and glowing." 2 The Renaissance, he holds, 
" brought sanity into religion " by reaffirming the Greek 
respect for the intellect, which he misses in Thomas a 
Kempis and in Eckhardt, though he finds in Rosmini 
" something that begins to look like it." 3 He is shocked 
by the Church's condemnation of socialism : " the 
Church now excommunicates, as I understand, those that 

* Journal, April 18, 1908. *ibid* February n, 1908. 

3 ibid. November 12, 1907. 


preach the doctrine which Christ and the first Churchmen 
practised, the doctrine which the Young Man having 
Great Possessions was excommunicated for not accept- 
ing.'i 1 Catholic orthodoxy astonishes him : " can they 
really believe that the Once Human, now ravished in the 
Beatific Vision, do look down upon the upper room of 
No. i, Goldhurst Terrace, Finchley Road, where the Wax 
Lady waits at the door? Amazing the things one can 
believe when one is called homo." 2 His " they " is surely 

Seven years later, in the essay on " Experimental 
Ethics " to which I have already referred, he writes of 
such men as himself : " Despite all their instincts and 
longings they dare not, in the truth of their soul they 
cannot, take stand upon an eternal Aye or Nay. An 
infallible Catholicism presses upon them, perhaps ; but 
reason will not bend. The Protestantisms show a certain 
bravery of independence with reverence, but seem fluid, 
fissible, an uncertain footing, a yielding staff. Oriental 
teachings, marvellously explaining all things, seem to 
leave their own warrant unclear. Mysticism lures, but 
shows too its threat of insanity or invirilily. The vaguest 
deistic faith in immortality seems too definite for these 
sick souls' certainty. Yet life, with its men and women, 
presents its problems, and the inward war wages relent- 
lessly, and something in the man cries for a law and for an 
emotional spur, for a table and for a whip, that he may 
know whither he would go and may be driven down the 
path he has chosen." 

Nevertheless all through his years in Ireland MacKenna 
continued to call himself a Catholic, though he did not 
pretend to be a " good " one : in conversation with men 
of Protestant origins like " A. E." or Curtis or myself he 
would maintain with fervour that " to be a bad Catholic 
is the best religion in the world/' Intus ut libet : foris ut 
moris est, he had quoted in his 1897 notebook ; and for 
1 Journal, April 3, 1908. *ibtd, December n, 1907. 


more than a quarter of a century he appears to have acted 
in matters of religion (though assuredly in no other) upon 
that questionable maxim. His motives were, I think, 
three. One was the " purely extraneous reason " given 
in letter 36, namely that " Rome is the best trench 
against Buckingham Palace or Downing Street*" Catho- 
licism was significant for him less as the Universal Church 
than as the church of his own small people ; that is why 
it seemed to him, for example, right and important that 
Casement should have died a Catholic. 1 A second motive, 
equally extraneous, was the fear of distressing his wife, 
who in her last years especially clung to Catholicism as 
her only protection against the besetting fear of death. 
Thirdly, individualist though he was, MacKcnna had 
throughout his life a longing " for a table and for a whip," 
together with a strong sense of the spiritual power gener- 
ated by collective acts of worship. " I have never yet," 
he wrote to my mother after he had abandoned Catho- 
licism, " been to any service, Romanist, Anglican, Uni- 
tarian or even Salvation Army street-howlcry, without 
feeling a spiritual presence there, working from some- 
whence upon the crowd, and from the crowd, if not from 
that somewhence, upon me." The most perfect instrument 
of this operative power was in his view the mass ; in con- 
trast with the Roman rite, the Anglican seemed to him 
" smugly sure and at rest," whereas the deeper sort of 
religion " throws itself about in a kind of agony and must 
use magic." 2 And he still thought it " on the whole a 
very legitimate thing " to accept a religious system " as 
a vehicle of spirituality without intellectual adherence to 
dogma." 3 

When MacKenna left Ireland in 1924 the extraneous 
considerations had ceased to be effective. His wife was 
dead ; and politically the Church had in his opinion 
betrayed its trust by siding with might against right and 

1 Memories oftfo Dead. a Jitter 36. 

8 Letter 35. Contrast his later view, expressed in letter 71 . 


preferring expediency to principle. " Since the Bishops," 
he wrote to Bodkin, " entoned their credo in unum Johannem 
Bullum omnipotentem, I've become a Christian and lead my 
Bibfc like George Moore and Mr. Wesley." But the 
removal of external restraints was hardly the main cause 
of his volte face. In the hour of its testing, discipline 
without faith affords but a slippery foothold. The abysses 
which had opened beneath his feet in the last few years 
had forced upon MacKenna the need for a deeper solution 
of his personal religious problem than was to be found in 
a merely disciplinary Catholicism. 1 During the last period 
of his life his strongest interest lay in the attempt to 
discover a creed which both his reason and his heart could 

His temperament demanded some form of " two- 
storied " belief. " I feel much more sure of God," he 
confided to his Journal, " and of some real Being other 
than that which I see, than of the Finchley Road." And 
twenty years later he wrote to my mother, " I could no 
more doubt the existence of this divine mind at work (or 
at play) in the universe than I can doubt the existence of 
a mind in humanity." It was, I conjecture, just this 
intuitive perception of the visible world as an expression 
of something other than itself which had originally drawn 
MacKenna to the study of Plotinus ; and in his years of 
tribulation he sought comfort from him, not wholly in 
vain " As I'm tried bitterly in the furnace of trouble," 
he told Debenham, " I become more deeply a spiritual 
disciple of Plotinus than ever before." He thought that 
" a good Plotinian would be undistinguished in life and 
death from a good Christian, except perhaps in being 
better." a But as with Catholicism, so with Neoplaton- 
ism : while he drew from the philosopher true spiritual 
nourishment^ he found intellectual acceptance of his 
premisses increasingly difficult. Plotinus' teaching left too 
many aspects of life unexplained. " He builds the soul a 
1 Cf* letter 30, * Letter 4. 


fairy palace/' said MacKenna once to Bergin : " en- 
chanted, you follow him through the lovely labyrinthine 
structure ; you mount, breathless, by successive stairways 
of the spirit, each more pure, more tenuous, more asj&ring 
than the last but sooner or later there comes a time 
when you ask yourself where the W. C. is," It is signi- 
ficant that at the end of his days MacKenna turned from 
Plotinus to a harsher and less imaginative but more 
homely comforter Epictetus, the lame ex-slave. 

By the autumn of 1924 he felt sufficient confidence in 
his powers to resume work and accept Debenham's subsidy 
for the next volume. The expenses of his wife's illness had 
been, for a man of his means, fantastic just over two and 
a half times his income, he estimated. And at her death 
her little capital passed under her father's will to the 
children of her sister. But his aunt's legacy brought in 
about 150 a year, and on this, with the subsidy and the 
scanty remnant of his own savings, he set out both to live 
himself and to make a contribution towards the support 
of his mother, who was now lodged with his brother 
Theobald in London. " Beyond living while the work is 
doing," he had written to Debenham, " I can't care a 
button about the money side. ... I never did care about 
money as long as I could live and buy books and hear and 
make music." 1 

I have not yet mentioned that the hearing and making 
of music was from his schooldays onward one of Mac- 
Kenna's major pleasures, and became in the bad years his 
last fortress against misery. He was, I am told, a very 
indifferent executant, but he made up in zeal what he 
lacked in aptitude. As I write, I recall my first meeting 
with him. In 1917 or thereabouts a friend brought me 
to visit him at his flat in Merrion Square. Entering what 
had been the drawing-room of some Georgian hostess, I 
saw a long lean man with grizzled hair and liquid brown 
eyes remote and melancholy as a peatbog : he was walk- 
l Cf. also letter 41, 


ing, with a peculiar grace of movement, very softly up 
and down the twilit room, swerving now and again in his 
course to avoid a jutting piece of furniture or a heap of 
bodks on the floor ; his face, upturned and serious, wore 
the illuminated look of an El Greco saint ; and as he 
walked he played upon a concertina. He did not inter- 
rupt his stride or his music for our entrance, but as the 
tune ended his grave mouth suddenly wrinkled into a grin 
of welcome. I gaped, uncertain in my undergraduate 
scepticism if what I had seen were pose or passion. 
Doubtless, like much of MacKenna's behaviour, it was 
both passion inviting you to laugh at it as pose, in the 
secret fear that you might laugh at it as passion. 

The concertina was at this period his chief resort in bad 
times. 1 Jack Yeats has told me how, calling once at 
Merrion Square when Mrs. MacKenna lay seriously ill, 
he was met on the staircase by faint strains of music. He 
mounted, but study and living-room stood empty. Guided 
by the muffled music he tried another door. The bed- 
room to which it led was also apparently empty ; but on 
the bed was a strangely shaped heap of rugs and blankets, 
and from the interior of this heap proceeded sounds as of 
a concertina being played very softly. He poked it and 
a head was protruded : " Gome in under here, Jack/* 
whispered MacKenna, " the way we won't disturb my old 
lady, and Fll play you a grand new tune." 

He would allow no reflections on the prestige of his 
favourite instrument. When in some letter I spoke of play- 
ing the concertina in one's bath, he was indignant : " The 
concertina is not played naked, but in frock coat, top hat 
and lilac Oxford trousers : you mistake its rank. . . . 
Have I never told you that QUEEN VICTORIA and forty 
Ladies of Honour used to sit in a little circle round the 
throne with forty dukes behind each chair and the 
whole 41 playing c There's someone in the house with 
Dinah/ the first piece in the Concertina Tutors of the 
1 Of. letter is. 


time ? Twill give you an idea of the rank of the Con- 

Later he began to collect, and experiment upon, all 
manner of strange instruments. " I play," he wrote to 
me in 19126, " not only the concertina but the guitar, two 
kinds of mandoline, four kinds of clarinet, and the gramo- 
phone." Of the clarinet he wrote to another friend, " I 
think it is far more beautiful in tone than any human 
voice : the mischief is 'tis a spitty instrument, and vari- 
able : I suppose good players can control it, but with me 
it emits the most incongruous sounds, just when it has 
been behaving most divinely : 'tis a child, not to say a 
baby, incalculable, irresponsible." When he lost his 
teeth he had to abandon his assaults upon it. His last 
love was for the guitar, at which he and James Stephens 
toiled long and despairingly. 

His desire for music attracted him to Bournemouth. He 
settled in lodgings on the outskirts, at a point where, as he 
told Debenham, " beauty and sordor co-jazz." l He had 
good health here during the winter that followed, and 
Plotinus moved steadily forward. But in the late spring 
of 1925 the familiar symptoms were renewed for a time : 
" I feel obliged to nurse my head as a little girl a dolly : 
I feel myself carrying it just so, as something not my own ; 
perhaps like those that carry, I believe, eggs on spoons in 
races." He emerged from this bout only to be attacked 
successively by kidney trouble 2 and muscular rheumatism. 
To Curtis, advising him at this time on historical reading, 
he replies, " I never now will feel able to buy a book that 
takes more than 7 days [to read], lest Pd be called before 
I'd get the value of me money." 

He was not called, but progress was slowed down, and 
doctor's bills were hard to meet. It was not until 1926 
that another Ennead appeared and he started work on 

1 Cf. letter 38. He had to move later into cheaper rooms. 
a The source of the " horrible tho* comic symptoms " referred to in letters 
43 and 44. It eventually killed him. 


" the ouf volume, i.e. the last. 5 ' In that year he was 
reluctantly contemplating arrangements to set up a 
manage with his mother in Brighton, when the old lady 
died. The event left him unmoved : l she was a woman 
of cold and conventional temper, and although he behaved 
towards her with a touching gentleness and deference, he 
had never loved her. Her death relieved him of some 
financial responsibility, and he felt able to buy himself 
" a pretty cottage, guaranteed damp and leaky," which 
he named Vinecot, at Wallis Down, outside Bournemouth. 

It was at Vinecot that MacKenna first met Margaret 
Nunn, who was to take the place in his heart of the chil- 
dren whom his wife had not borne him. She has sent me 
the following description of the house, and of his life there 
as her youthful eyes saw it : 

" Vinecot overlooked the moors, at the edge of Bourne- 
mouth. There never was such a cottage, from floor to 
ceiling each room was lined with books except where in 
spaces hung musical instruments, mostly stringed ones, 
guitars, mandolines, balalaika ; there were also clarinets 
and squeegees. And there were Lord Buddhas of all 
shapes, sizes and postures, and these were perched quaintly 
in corners where they caught the eye as you entered or 
left a room. All the doors had been removed so that the 
rooms led one into another. It was an old Hampshire 
cottage, thatched, with walls made of mud and wattles. 
Some of the rooms had been dark but in all he had had 
windows made, the glory of which he loved to show you. 
On the western side of the cottage he had built a sun 
verandah of glass, where bloomed golden chrysanthemums 
in profusion. 

" Here we arrived, myself and a Unitarian minister, a 
great scholar and always called by S. MK. c the holy 
man.* We talked from noon till night, we made strong 
tea and drank it out of mugs of which there were great 
variety,, German pewter-lidded beer mugs with handles, 

* Letter 48. 


silver mugs, and mugs of diverse colours and shapes. We 
stood and discussed them and chose us one mug each, 
the one we fancied most ; for S. MK. was whimsical 
no little beauty, no little passing interest was missed by 
him, there was no routine in his soul. There were mugs 
for tea and you must choose your own and not be dull 
and commonplace and drink smugly and unilluminatedly 
out of a blue-lined cup. 

" He played a Beethoven symphony on the gramo- 
phone ; he had a lot of symphonies and played one each 
morning at his breakfast time, drinking tea and munching 
plummy cake. 

" The gramophone was a Columbia though he had 
really wished for an H.M.V. he told us, but he simply 
could not bear their trade mark, the silly smug little dog 
gazing into the huge old fashioned horn to have that on 
his gramophone and in his room eternally to look at, it 
was too common and unbeautiful. He simply hated that 
little dog ; so he wrote to the H.M.V. Company and told 
them that he disliked their trademark and asked them 
could they supply him with a gramophone without the 
dog. They replied that they couldn't, but undaunted he 
wrote to them again that they were very unbusinesslike 
and unobliging and surely it would be better to sell a 
gramophone without a dog than lose the sale of one alto- 
gether to a man who would laud the H.M.V. Co. and 
their wonderful gramophones. But they wouldn't and he 
hated them for being so pig-headed and having such a 
horrid little dog. To understand S. MK. one had to 
realise his extreme love of beauty and hatred of vulgar 

The " holy man " mentioned by Margaret Nunn was 
Henry Hall, a minister of unusual intelligence and culti- 
vation, for whom MacKcima conceived a warm regard. 
For a time he attended Hall's chapel regularly and 
astonished his friends by writing them long letters about 
Unitarianism or rather, about a creed of his own which 


but under another name and form, or under no name 
and form." 

The " eastern ideas " exercised a strong fascination 
upon him. The Journal shows him already interested in 
the Yoga system. 1 In 1913 he read the Bhagavadgita, but 
concluded that it was " all in elementary Christianity, 
only in another metaphor." 2 Later on, when Stephens 
had persuaded him to study the Indian scriptures seri- 
ously, he revised his opinion. While, however, he learned 
to value Yoga as a mental discipline, he rejected its super- 
naturalism as firmly as he did Christianity. 3 He preferred 
the contemplation of Buddha to the contemplation of 
Christ : in its Indian form the human ideal was not 
blurred for him by what he was accustomed to call " that 
bloody lamb business." But despite the images of 
Buddha that accompanied him in all the migrations of his 
last years, he was no Buddhist : he saw no reason, as he 
told a correspondent, " to believe in Karma, reincarna- 
tion, and all that." 4 

About eighteen months after MacKenna had acquired 
Vinecot he found himself obliged to sell it again : " I 
have drawn on Plotinus in advance," he writes to his 
brother Octavian, " as much as I honestly can, and must 
therefore sell to live." He had to move into two un- 
furnished rooms in a bricklayer's house in the village of 
Ringwood ; he expected this to be his permanent home 
" as long as I permane, which I don't wish long." The 
change was accepted with a philosopher's cheerfulness. 
" I have pleasant enough rooms here, and find more ease 
than in my cottage, where I couldn't get any service, and 
was fast becoming a household drudge toiling over lamps 
and oilstoves and tea-mugs. Yet the little place had 
grown pleasant and serviceable (bar the service)." 5 

Some ten miles from Ringwood lived W. K. Magcc 

1 April n , 1 907. a Letter i . 

* Cf. letters 79 and 80. 4 Cf. also letter 70, 

8 Letter to DHjcnham, spring 1928, 


("John Eglinton"), who like MacKenna had declined 
to be a citizen of the Free State, though for an opposite 
reason. He considers that he " did not quite succeed 
witk MacKenna," and indeed no two men of intelligence 
could have differed more in temperament and outlook. 
Yet there was a certain liking between them, and at this 
period they saw each other fairly frequently. Mr. Magee 
has been good enough to send me the following reminis- 
cences of their meetings. 

cc MacKenna, with his important work as a translator, 
his gay letter-writing gift, his musical instruments, his 
liking for the society of humble folk, reminded one a good 
deal of Edward FitzGerald : but FitzGerald managed 
his life better than MacKenna, who, after his wife's death, 
was sadly in need of someone to look after him. He had 
established himself (* for ever '), after various unsuccess- 
ful experiments, with some people in a pair of cottages 
beside the bridge at Ringwood, which the river often 
threatened with inundation : you could see his books and 
belongings from the road, bulging against the windows of 
both houses. The lumber of books and miscellaneous 
articles in his gloomy living-room was agreeably relieved, 
soon after my first visit to him, by a happy and daring 
innovation. I had noticed in my neighbourhood the dis- 
appearance of a little building of corrugated iron, lately 
used as a Catholic place of worship, and when MacKenna 
invited me to see his c church,' I was amazed to find that 
he had purchased the building ( e for 40 ') and set it up 
in his back-garden. He had closed off one end to make 
a little bedroom, and the rest of the building was a longish 
apartment lined with his books and with comfortable 
seats as fine a working-room as a writer could wish, 
though in cold weather we had to come back to the house. 
MacKenna with his priestly appearance suited it well. 
What his real design was in this edifice, what he hoped 
from it, he had never perhaps quite worked out in his 
own mind. He was framed to be the centre of a listening 


he called by that name. 1 " My Unitarianism," he told 
Curtis, " isn't a thing to be publisht ma's ga'e, 2 as you 
seem to imply ; the very contrary : it's to be dragged 
doWin and bellowed forth ; it's to be painted in red 
letters on every green pillar box ; to be worn on your 
brow, inscribed in the palm of your hand, stamped on free 
state stamps, publisht like a Republic, like a Rhododen- 
dron, like an unBerginal joke, like a Thingumabob on a 
Whatumacallit, like everything public, ga' and gan ga', 3 
from Sunday noon to Saturday midnight, to be Broadcast, 
Radioted, Listened in to, though all Ireland die of Heart- 
shock and the Pope throw himself with snarls of baffled 
rage into the Tiber." But when Hall was transferred to 
Trowbridge MacKenna's chapel-going quickly ceased, 
though he resumed it for a time half-heartedly in London. 
He found it impossible to digest " the too minute and 
dictatorial prayers, and the slushy-wushy sloppy-poppy 
hymns " ; 4 and he was revolted by sentimental gushings 
about " Jesus Christ, who is to me offensive. 555 His 
fellow-worshippers in London appeared to him " a dis- 
gusting set of imbeciles gathered under the divinest 
banner." 6 His final judgement on Unitarianism is ex- 
pressed in a letter which he wrote in 1931 to his brother 
Robert : 

" Unitarianism is of course a lost cause largely, I 
think, because like the concertina (a most noble instru- 
ment of the most astonishing capabilities) it has fallen 
into the hands of idiots and never been given a fair 
chance. It will utterly die out, I feel sure, in less than a 
hundred years. That is, in its organised form : as a 
matter of fact, being the core of all religion of the western 
type (and being able even to absorb, easily and fittingly, 
eastern ideas) it will be in essence the religion of the future 

1 Gf. letter 50. 2 Irish, " in case of necessity." 

3 Irish, " necessity or no." * Letter 61. 

5 Letter to Robert MacKenna, about 1939. Letter 73. 


circle, and in Dublin I had often heard his talk caught up 
into inspired harangues. There were people in the 
neighbourhood who would have heard him gladly : a 
well-known novelist lived over the way, and the Rector of 
the place (as MacKenna told me, not without some 
apparent gratification) turned out to be a student of 
Plotinus, and much interested to hear that MacKenna 
was his neighbour. But association with his neighbours 
would have involved entanglement in social obligations, 
which he abhorred. 

" I once brought out George Moore to see him. The 
two were naturally antagonistic to one another, MacKenna 
being one of those who denied all value to Moore's 
authorship ; l Moore, on the other hand, smiling per- 
sistently at all the musical instruments lying about, and 
even conceiving a doubt about MacKenna's Greek, 
suspected him of being not much more than a picturesque 
charlatan. I daresay he was saying to himself all the time 
what a lovely couple of pages it would all make. They 
talked pleasantly together, however, especially when 
Moore found that he could not insult the Catholic church 
in MacKenna's person, and our host regaled us in a garden- 
restaurant on the other side of the road. But the point is 
that the little stir of this visit pleased MacKenna : in this 
reception of a visitor from the outer world, one of the 
unavowed intentions of the c church * was for the moment 
realised. As it was, it only served to bring home to him 
his loneliness." 

This account attributes to MacKenna a sense of isola- 
tion which I think he felt only rarely. He made friends 
with all the children of the village, and with the gypsies 
who had an encampment close by. He continued also to 
see a good deal of Hall and Margaret Nunn. Much of his 
time, the latter tells me, was spent in tramping by himself 
at night : " often he would set out at midnight and not 
return till four a.m. : there was a road by which ran a 

*This is perhaps an overstatement : see letter 83- 


river, and beyond were flat marshes,, and beyond again a 
low hill covered with pines ; here he said God was always 
brooding, and here he liked to walk. 39 It was not until 
afte HalPs departure to Trowbridge that he found him- 
self " getting cranky " at Ringwood, and " began to hate 
everyone." I He moved first to rooms in north-west 
London, to be near Stephens ; then in the autumn of 
1929 he bought himself a little house at Harrow 
"Ellendene" or " Eldene " for under Debenham's 
skilful management his finances had improved somewhat, 
and he was tired of " swallowing other people's foods and 

" Eldene " is thus described by Margaret Nunn : 
" It was just a little modern house, not an old cottage 
full of character like the one at Wallisdown or later in 
Cornwall. But there was no need to get any further than 
the front door to find that this was no ordinary house : 
the letter box had been made large enough to receive 
parcels of books without calling anyone to the door, and 
you could easily put your hand through and unfasten the 
door as well ! Inside, the walls of every room, including 
the bedroom, were lined with bookshelves that reached 
from floor to ceiling. . . . The collection of Buddhas 
always increased, and here they were everywhere, on the 
window sills, in odd corners, and in the kitchen solemnly 
meditating among the domestic utensils. 

" To Eldene every Saturday was invited anybody who 
could play a guitar. We played and talked, got ourselves 
tea and later supper, in the summer sitting long into the 
night in the sun-room, 2 the stars shining a little distortedly 
through the glass roof. Quite regularly came a Portu- 
guese boy, a Russian, the Russian's father-in-law who 
was an Austrian, a young English architect and his 
fiancee ; sometimes there was an Italian, a very good 
guitar player, who came when he was in England. At 

1 Letter 63. 

a A glass structure built on by MacKenna at the back of the house. 


these parties S. MK. was delightful : we spread ourselves 
all over the house and garden talking and playing, and 
he would prowl round happily, commending or criticising ; 
he wouldn't play himself, though he could get the shyest 
performer to. But he would tell us of the hours that he 
practised with no result except that he found the loveliest 
melodies and occasionally produced a note of the divinest 
quality that mortal man ever heard. He had a wonderful 
collection of music, which included a wealth of folksongs. 
We always strung his guitars for him : he simply couldn't 
manage to tie the knot and twist the other end into the 
hole at the top and secure it. He said he often longed to 
send for one of us when a string broke." 

The last volume of the Plotinus a long and particu- 
larly hard one was ground out slowly at Wallisdown, 
Ringwood and Harrow. In the autumn of 1928 I 
received a despairing appeal for help l : " Fm in agonies 
over the Sixth, and not the difficulter parts. 'Tis all too 
difficult for me and I wish I were dead tho' even that 
has its risks I figure myself sometimes flying down the 
corridors of Hades pursued by Plotty and him roaring." 
More was wanted than the slight occasional assistance by 
way of criticism and suggestion which I had been able to 
render in connection with one or two of the earlier 
volumes. I introduced MacKenna to a young Plotinian 
scholar named B. S. Page, and Debenham so far relented 
as to allow the two to collaborate in the translation of the 
last Ennead. I had feared that MacKenna might not be 
an easy person to work with ; but I was wrong the 
partnership between the young university-trained man 
and the self-made scholar proved a very happy one, and 
resulted in a better version than cither could have pro- 
duced unaided. In May 1930 the last proof-sheets were 
signed. " The work will be creditable," wrote MacKenna 
to his patron, " but there's no disguising the fact that a 
few more decades could well be spent on bringing it up 

* Of. letter Go, 


to a really fine polish." He thought of adding a brief 
personal postscript to this final volume, but decided 
against it : " the whole thing has been austerely imper- 
sonal, and that impersonality is very personal " what 
had Stephen MacKenna's victory over fate to do with 
Plotinus ? He had judged the achievement ce worth a 
life " : he had given his life, and had achieved. 

Whether in fact MacKenna's Plotinus is worth the 
enormous price that was paid for it not only in effort 
and suffering, but in the sacrifice of the other potential- 
ities that lay in his rich natural endowment is a question 
which I will not attempt to answer. But two things are 
certain : it is a noble monument to an Irishman's courage, 
an Englishman's generosity, and the idealism of both ; 
and it is one of the very few great translations of our day. 
" I lay down for myself," wrote MacKenna at an early 
stage of the work, " the general principle that I must have 
the courage of my own decisions, of my own idiocies or 
ignorances. . . . Of the things I have done against the 
general view of scholars, many will be finally accepted, 
while others will no doubt be spat out of the 4 final mouth ' 
as grotesque blunders." * Blunders there are in plenty 
some of them inevitable in any pioneer work on such a 
text, others of a kind which a lesser man, given the 
ordinary academic training, would quite possibly have 
avoided. Yet taken as a whole it is, with all its faults, not 
only an astonishing performance for a journalist who had 
never crossed the threshold of a university, but an impor- 
tant contribution to the understanding of the most obscure 
of major Greek writers, and one of which any professional 
man of learning might well be proud. Its claim to per- 
manence, however, rests not on its scholarship (in the 
narrow sense of that term), but on other qualities, which 
the learned too often lack. " In the matter of accuracy," 
said an authoritative reviewer in the Journal of Hellenic 
Studies, " Mr. MacKenna's translation, which in English 

1 To Debenham, about 1916. 


at least is virtually pioneer work, is not likely to be final, 
but for beauty it will certainly never be surpassed." As 
Dr. T. E. Page put it once in a letter to Debenham, " You 
could possibly find half a dozen scholars who c&uld 
translate Plotinus accurately ; but to reproduce him, to 
make him live again, to catch something of that un- 
earthly beauty which attaches to his words this needs 
something more than accuracy or scholarship, and Mr. 
MacKenna possesses it." " I do not think," said Sir 
John Squire, " that any living man has written nobler 
prose than Mr. MacKenna." 

His friends in Ireland had already tried to give expres- 
sion to their sense that the Plotinus had, in W. B. Yeats' 
words, " conferred honour and dignity " on a small 
country in which the union of scholarship with literary 
art is perhaps even rarer than elsewhere. At the national 
festival of the Tailteann Games, in August 1924, Yeats 
announced that the Royal Irish Academy had "crowned" 
MacKenna's work and awarded a gold medal to its 
author. It was recognised that he would in all likelihood 
feel obliged to decline the award on grounds of principle, 
and for this reason he was not notified of it in advance. 
He did decline it, explaining in a letter to the press that 
while he was " pleased by the compliment from so dis 
tinguished a body " he could accept no honour " from a 
Society whose title seems to imply any connection between 
Ireland and the English throne." l Despite this rebuff, 
he was asked some years later to accept membership of 
the Academy ; but this too he felt bound to refuse. 2 

With the completion of the Plotinus, MacKenna was 
liberated from the last strands of that network of conflict- 
ing obligations obligations to his wife, to his country, to 
his patron, to his own imperious daemon in which he 
had felt himself entangled since the " moral upheaval " 
on his thirty-fifth birthday. The thing that he had set 
himself to do was done, and in the doing, though he had 
1 Gf. letter 34. 3 See letter 83. 


worn himself out, he had " shaped his own image " : he 
stood at length free and entire. Despite growing poverty 
and increasingly frequent illness, the four years that re- 
maiiled to him were the calmest, if not the happiest, which 
he had known since 1907. ce My work isn't much, but it 
stands done : now on milk and eggs and with music and 
Irish I can idle and wait, in peace of conscience." l Once 
only his peace was disturbed, when it was proposed that 
the Plotinus should be republished in the Loeb Library 
and he felt that he must undertake a revision ; but the 
project, like some earlier negotiations to the same end, 2 
eventually broke down. 3 

His Irish he had kept up as best he could since he left 
Dublin. At Ringwood he bought linguaphone records in 
Irish and French : " I was determined not to lose my 
French, tho 5 it is improbable I shall ever have to use it 
again in speech : same with the Irish ; I always swore 
I'd die a fluent speaker of bad Irish/' 4 A Gaelic calendar 
hung by his fireside to be " a defiance and instruction of 
the damned Sasanach." 5 While he was at Harrow he 
tried to discover in London " a learned well-bred speaker 
of Connacht Irish " with whom he might converse in that 
language on all manner of subjects. He failed to find a 
native speaker ; but O'Rinn introduced him to George 
Thomson, a youthful Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, 
who shared his dual passion for Greek literature and for 
the Gaelic speech. Thomson became a great favourite, 
and figures frequently in the letters of these years, now as 
" Dante " or " Geoffrey Chaucer," now as fear nafeasdige, 
"the bearded one" (in reference to the beard which 
learned men should by tradition possess). MacKenna 

1 Letter 92. *Cf. letter 9. 

8 See letters 73-75, and 8s. Debenham and Dr. Page wished to reprint 
MacKenna's version as it stood, ws-b-vis with the fifty-year-old and now 
obsolescent Greek text on which it was based. MacKenna felt in my 
judgement rightly that account should be taken of the work which had 
been done in the interval on both text and interpretation. 

4 Letter to O'Rinn, 19128 or 1929, 6 To O'Rinn, 1931. 


and he cherished in common the dream of fertilising the 
revived Gaelic culture from the same sources which at 
the Renaissance had given new life to the literature of 
France and England. Something of this kind had iong 
been in MacKenna's thoughts. Many years earlier he 
had embarked on an Irish version of the Antigone the 
characteristic choice of a lifelong rebel against authority 
but was discouraged when Padraic O'Conaire told him 
that " it didn't mean anything, least of all anything 
Irish." He had also tried his hand at putting Epictetus 
into Gaelic, 1 and had even planned a grammar to be used 
for the teaching of Greek to Irish children through the 
medium of the national language. Stimulated by Thom- 
son's example, he now returned seriously to these ideas. 
At the time of his last illness he was at work on an Irish 
version of Horace's Satires and Epistles : he believed that 
Gaelic idiom could be made to yield a perfect equivalent 
for the gracious colloquial style of these poems, and that 
the mellow humanism of the Latin author was exactly 
what the new generation in Ireland needed to counteract 
Catholic supernatuialism and the evil heritage of bitter- 
ness and intolerance left behind by the years of violence. 
He also hoped one day to produce a volume of essays in 

When Thomson, with a quixotry worthy of MacKenna 
himself, left Cambridge to bury his talentvS in Galway as a 
lecturer at a small and remote university college, Mac- 
Kenna was momentarily tempted to take the advice of 
his Irish friends and follow him. But he was too old and 
too ill ; he resented, moreover, the increasing interfer- 
ences with individual liberty which were imposed in the 
name of economic nationalism or of Catholic piety " you 
to buy this and not that, to say this and not that other, to 
think one thing only and not that yon/' 2 "I couldn't 
bear to live," he wrote to Mrs. Erskinc Childers, " where 

1 Letters 47 and 59. Of, Prt'fure, p. xvl 
'Letter to " A. K.," October 1932. 


I must ask a minister of Church or State whether I may 
or may not read Anatole France." 

Poverty, however, compelled him to sell the little house 
at Harrow. His life there was of the simplest, with ele- 
mentary meals " I live mostly on eggs and milk and 
brown bread, and feel young and gay on it " 1 and no 
service, save for a woman who came once a week " to 
give a big clean up." But there were innocent extrava- 
gances which he could not resist books, 2 Buddhas, sun- 
parlours, and above all the luxury of generosity, in small 
matters and great. He insisted on paying his charwoman 
at 33! per cent, more than the standard rate, since 
it shocked him that any human being should work for 
less than a shilling an hour. He bought (to the alarm 
of his friends) a motor bicycle, decided (to their relief) 
that he could not ride it, bought in its place a motor 
tricycle or " pram," and presented the discarded machine 
to a neighbour's son. He tried to contribute 100 
towards the education of a village girl at Ringwood whom 
he thought more than usually intelligent. 3 And when, on 
the death of his brother Theobald, his minute estate was 
divided among the surviving members of the family, 
Stephen voluntarily offered to forgo his share of the 
inheritance in favour of two struggling brothers in 

He now discovered that he was eating into his capital, 
and decided that he must remove himself from London 
and its temptations to expenditure. I tried to persuade 
him to buy himself an annuity with what was left of his 

1 Letter to Debenham, October 16, 1929. 

2 MacKenna was throughout his life a passionate book-buyer. But he 
was no bibliophile. He bought books as tools, and treated them as such ; 
it was his habit, as he once warned a prospective lender, " to strew cigarette 
ashes and pencil faugh's and hurroo's over the pages." Nor were his 
Buddhas a mere mama. Their purpose was not to gratify a collector's 
vanity few of them, I believe, were of much value as objets d*art but to 
people the empty house with serene presences. 

8 Letter 64. 


money, but he felt that he must conserve it for his heirs in 
Australia. He found a workman's cottage in a Cornish 
mining village, where he was able to live on an income of 
two pounds a week while he awaited death. It had a 
kitchen, a cupboard-like parlour, and two tiny bedrooms, 
one of which became his book-store ; and he built him- 
self one last sun-room. He lived completely alone save 
for a pair of tame robins which hopped in and out of the 
sun-room : his soiled clothes accumulated in a rain-water 
barrel and his soiled crockery in the sink until these 
receptacles were full, when a neighbour's wife was sum- 
moned to come and wash them. He was cut off from 
Margaret Nunn and Stephens and the gay guitar parties, 
but he found companionship in the Cornish moors 
which he would visit on sunny afternoons in his " pram " 
and he made friends, as everywhere, with the village 
children. He interested himself also in contemporary 
psychology and economics, and in contemporary litera- 
ture. Deeply as he had loved Greek poetry and Greek 
thought, he refused to admit the finality of classical stan- 
dards. " Inspiration for the life of to-day," he wrote 
during his last illness to O'Rinn, " is in this day's best 
and that best judged and ranked not by any ancient 
standards of thought or expression but by the simple test 
question : is this a hard-hitting Beauty or Awe of to-day, 
or is it merely (a) antiquarian research or (b) the crimping 
and cramping of the present and the future by laws, ideas, 
values once possibly useful but never more than provisory? 
Someone else's old clothes are not the wedding garment." 
He had given up trying to interpret the world and his 
own life. " Looking back," he wrote to Robert Mac- 
Kenna, 1 " I find no reason, touching my own satisfaction 
achieved or service done, for my ever having been blown 
hither from the peace of nothingness : 'tis to nothingness 
I'd like to return, and that dam quick," But there was 
no resentment in his attitude, and no denial of value to 

1 January 37, 1931. 


the world's life. " I abhor this universe/' he had written 
in the bitterness of an earlier mood ; " I feel I could 
make a better one out of mud and waste paper." l This 
blasphemy he now vigorously recanted : " I'm a secu- 
larist agnostic : I don't know anything about the Soul or 
the Divine or Immortality or anything of that order, and 
I do believe in this life : I hate those who hate the 
world." 2 In the falling away of all dogma, what re- 
mained to him of religion was the sense of awe in the 
presence of nature. In his last letter to " A. E." 3 he 
wrote : " The older I grow the more I find of wonder 
everywhere, and no explanation : my last gasp will be 
one of astonishment. To-day an absurd bird sang on 
Dec. 31 as if God had already wakened out of his winter 
snooze ; and I was paralysed with a sense, utterly by me 
inexpressible, of the wonder of the world, the least and 
the biggest thing alike : so that I ended by saying c Noth- 
ing is big or little : all is infinite grandeur, infinite 
mystery, infinite insanity/ " 

In the early summer of 1933 he had an operation which 
cost him, with nursing home charges, a year's income, 
and did no lasting good. 4 He returned to his cottage, but 
he was weak and in frequent pain, and had often to spend 
much of the day in bed, getting up at intervals to make 
tea for he still would not afford himself an attendant. In 
September, hearing how he was situated, I went down 
to Cornwall to see whether I could do anything for his 
comfort. I found him lying in a deck chair in his sun- 
parlour : he was gaunt and worn, dressed in a tattered 
shirt, patched trousers, and an ancient pair of bedroom 
slippers, but he had kept all his old courtliness and charm 
of manner. Our talk ranged over many topics Plotinus, 
Ireland, his boyhood in Liverpool, Cornwall and the 
plight of its unemployed miners, the Russian experiment, 
the future of religion. He had been deeply moved by the 

lf To Mrs. A. F. Dodds, December 21, 1923. * Letter 95. 
8 December 3 1 , 1 932. * Letter 92 . 


spectacle of unemployment in London and in Camborne, 
and although he did not consider himself competent to 
express opinions on questions of economics, his sympathies 
were definitely socialist or communist. 1 Had he youth 
and strength, he told me, he would go back to Ireland and 
try to start a campaign " against God and for social 
justice." He knew that he was dying, and we spoke of the 
approaching end without embarrassment. He said that 
he had no wish to live longer, and when I asked him if he 
did not fear to die alone, he replied that he preferred it : 
he had always been spiritually alone, and his one dread 
was that the " black crows " might scent his deathbed 
and pester him with unwelcome services. He hoped, and 
expected, that there would be nothing after death. I 
asked him whether, if he did find himself surviving, he 
would attempt to establish the fact by communicating 
with me through a medium ; but he begged to be excused, 
on the ground of a distaste for mediums and a congenital 
incapacity for scientific experiment. 

To mark the importance of the occasion, a neighbour's 
wife had been asked to cook us a chicken. When we had 
consumed the meal or rather, when I had, for Mac- 
Kcnna scarcely ate he rested on his bed and I was sent 
out for a walk. On my return we made tea, and strolled 
among the falling apples of his little weed-grown orchard. 
Then it was time for me to go back to Gamborne, and we 
set out together through the village, he looking like a 
monk of some strange heretical order (for he still wore the 
threadbare dressing-gown which he had put on for his 
rest), I staggering under the load of books which he had 
given me, along with a beautiful old china plate, as a 
parting present. The village had evidently accepted him: 
the children who ran out to greet us and open gates 
seemed to do it less in mockery or the expectation of 
apples than in pure friendliness. When we reached the 
top of a little rise he showed me the loveliness of the 

i, 82. 


landscape under the autumn sunshine, and repeated 
his assurance that I had no occasion to be distressed or 
anxious on his account ; then he went back to his cottage, 
and % I went on to Camborne. 

Two months later he entered a London hospital for a 
further operation. He survived it, and for a time was 
expected to recover. But his endurance was at an end : 
the doctors reported that their patient had no will to live, 
and on March 8, 1934, he quietly slipped through their 
hands. True to his resolution, throughout this last illness 
he had kept his whereabouts a secret from his friends, 
and he would have died without seeing anyone, had not 
Margaret Nunn discovered his address from his landlord 
at Reskadinnick and sought and obtained permission to 
visit him a few days before his death. 1 

1 See letter 99. 



The following excerpts are taken from a manuscript book 
which was found among Stephen MacKenna's papers after his 
death and was kindly placed at my disposal by Mr. C> V. Thomas. 
It appears that he kept this journal partly as a spiritual exercise, 
as an aid to self-understanding and also to mastery of expression ; 
partly in the hope that the written word would preserve for his own 
later memory "a secret warmth of the mood of which il is the dry 
extract" The entries were made sometimes daily, sometimes at 
much longer intervals : often hejinds no mood worth recording, 
or no skill to record. The journal was composed without thought 
of publication ; but in 15/5, having re-read it and made some 
stylistic corrections, he pencilled on the first page a note (which he 
subsequently struck out) " 7 think there is much printable in Ihis 
book " ; and from some numerical calculations on the last page 
it may be inferred that he thought of printing about one-third of 
the whole. 

He never proceeded with the idea, but my own judgement coin- 
cides with that which he formed in ip/j ; what follows is about 
a third of the total bulk, although my selection can hardly be 
identical in detail with the one he would have made, and many 
paragraphs would undoubtedly have been remodelled before he 
surrendered them to the printer. I have had to omit or abbreviate 
many entries which were still in the rough> and therefore failed of 
concentration or clarity, I have also omitted some which lacked 
personal quality , being purely exercises in style ; some which gave 
alternative expression to thoughts already set down ; and a very 
few which appeared too private for publication, With what re- 
mains I have not tampered, save in occasional matters ofpunctua* 
tion and in amending a few obvious oversights. 



*E<m 5' 57D7 vvv 
m* reXeircu 3 } rd 

otfre S&Kpfav dirtipw iep&v 

<3/yyds drej/els irapa^X Jet. Aeschylus. 

Too much thinking doth consume the spirits, and oft it falls out that 
while one thinks too much of his doing he leaves to do the effect of his 
thinking 1 SIDNEY'S Arcadia. 


January 27, 1907. 

One of the very most surprising things in life is the 
contented aimlessness with which it is so often, almost 
always, lived. Few live for joy in life, fewer still for some- 
thing to be done with their life : most live, and apparently 
in content, not as free animals live who must be doing 
something, but as tram-horses or trees or as monoton- 
ously flowing waters . . . and without the beauty or dignity 
of trees or of flowing waters. No doubt there is use in what 
most are doing, keeping shop or building bridges or 
spending money idly, but there is not aim, or the aim is 
mainly personal and wholly bounded within time. A 
father perhaps keeps shop for his children's sake, that they 
may be better or happier : but if he had any deep sense 
of value in life he would be so long occupied, and so 
intently, in making this value clear to himself that his 
shop would fail ; he would make his living wait upon the 
clarifying of his notion of life's values and meaning. It is 
well for the playing of the piece to the end that the actors 

1 These mottoes are prefixed to MacKenna's manuscript. 


do not stay to think what it all means and leads to : they 
themselves meanwhile remain mummers, idly mumbling, 
cutting ordered capers, and the more violently, sonor- 
ously, the less men. Monastics are nearer manhood, if to 
be man is to act for an end : whether theirs is a wise man- 
hood, probably nobody knows : but it seems wise to make 
action wait for the wise pointing of action. 

There is a sort of reason in the American sect Hindoo 
too ? that refuses generation and grows by adoption : 
those withdrawing from the common pursuit of idle pro- 
creation have at least the moral manliness of restraint ; 
those adopted live, by the fact, in an atmosphere of grave 
thought ; they are snatched from the common drifting. 
It seems one of the clearest proofs of an ultimate meaning 
in the comedy that so few stay to ask its meaning as they 
play their parts : what driving power is there in man 
except one of which man is only the vehicle or the driven ? 
If man had a clearer motive for all he does, we might rest 
on that and never talk of a beyond. He might be God 
or the proof that no God is : he might be Life : but Life 
he is not, nor is Life in him : it is without him, blowing 
him against his will, without his care or knowledge. 

If a man is happy and content selling cheeses or pratt- 
ling in an evening dress, it is that a greater uses him : 
the meaning that is not in him is without, and his gyration 
or his placid movement on the sot path tells of a great 
wind blowing, 

January 30, 1907. 

I find that everything I write either is full of gross 
faults against the logic of expression or else is muddy and 
clogged in either case is unreadable, even to myself. Of 
old I wrote, I suppose, even less correctly, but there was a 
certain liveliness, a certain glow : running the eye down 
the page, one caught the gleam of pretty words like the 
faint burst of colour here and there that showed in the 
old metal plate I bought, dirt-encrusted, in Moscow. 

JOURNAL 1907 95 

I am inclined to put the change down to three main 
causes, cable-journalism, the use of the typewriter, and a 
failure-bred distaste for all writing. The sense of the 
tariff checks the picture-making faculty, hinders the easy 
play of fancy : the typewriting seems to lead towards the 
lapidary and away from the fluid : journalism, especially 
of a low and impersonal kind, long pursued, necessarily 
rusts the imaginative faculty, for it creates the dread of 
any statement that is not warranted by some outer evi- 
dence and of any phrase that is not stamped in the vul- 
garest mould. 

February 2, 1907. 

It seems incredible that he could ever write, out of his 
own fancy and sense of fitness and beauty, anything that 
could touch the heart or please the fancy or even satisfy 
the intelligence of others. He should remember that he is 
sane and that therefore, if only he be at first simple and 
sincere, he will not maim good sense ; that he has talked 
and pleased, and therefore may please when he writes ; 
that he need not seek to touch the heart by any very sor- 
rowful imagination, and that so, not making the extreme 
effort, he may easily save himself from the supreme fall 
and yet find beneath his easy-going feet the little herb 
rue now and then, enough for his simple purpose. If it 
be a question of craftsmanship lacking, craftsmanship is 
above all the thing won by work. If he foresees that he 
will never do great things and that so his work will be 
wasted, let him remember that his work can never be 
wasted, even though it never show outside himself, and 
further that it is not necessary for him to do great things : 
he will always have done his best, been, most himself, 
cultivated his garden, and the devil take the rest ! 

February 5, 1907. 

Reading to-day the Areopagitica, it seemed to me that 
this is the noblest prose I know with the flow and power 


of Bossuet and with no touch of the borrowed : it is 
music, power and personality all at once : not only is 
there no cliche in it, there is nothing that could ever 
become cliche ; and yet it is not harsh, forbidding, 
strained : it flows, though very massively, with the true 
simplicity of a pure and entire expression of the thought 
and emotion ; but the thought is too fine to fall into 
phrases that would ever quite fit a broad general need, 
and the phrases are too grand for any common use. 
Milton has now and then a sophist-trick : in him, in the 
pomp of all that sturdy work of proof, the trick has a 
delicious air of frolic, of gaminerie : as if he knew the 
thing would carry but knew, himself, that it should not. 
Buying books to-day a Gorneille, a Moliere, a Mon- 
taigne shivering a whole afternoon along snowy quais, 
wind-swept, a memory of the Fontanka 1 : a body pulled 
out of the Seine in front of the Institut, a cc jeune fille " 
the people said gaily : two dogs came up to the skirts of 
the crowd, sat together on their haunches for a contem- 
plative moment, sniffing towards the sacking, then 
bounded off merrily, floundering over each other in supple 

February 6, 1907. 

It seems to me after all that there was much good sense 
in the old school law of using by choice the Anglo-Saxon 
words as the main stuff of writing. It is not so much that 
they " touch the heart,'* " strike home to men's business 
and bosoms," and so forth : it is that the Latin words 
and phrases are precisely the most common, the most 
hackneyed,, go most readily u home " and, sinking ex- 
pected into a prepared place, make no dint : only jagged 
words and phrases that bluster in like storming-partics 
make themselves felt as they pierce. And there can be 
no art, no cry to brain, unless there is violence. The hard 
thing is to do violence in the neatly right dcgm; : you 

1 A street in St. Petersburg. 

JOURNAL 1907 97 

must tap your man's skull but not crack it : you must 
wake him but not daze him : he is to be made to hear, 
he is not to be deafened. The Latin forms, too, are the 
ready masks of unclearness in thought and of grotesquely 
mixed metaphor, the two main sins, I take it, against good 
writing ; the twin brethren of blur and blundering, at 
whose entry all hope of making picture or of casting spell 
flies out of door. Latin forms, too, come readily, first, 
unsought, into the writer's mind : to let them flow out 
on to the page unchecked, unquestioned, is to abdicate 
artistry, to be slave not master, not a person but a patient, 
not a writer but a fountain pen very certain to blot and 
to run dry. 

February 7, 1907. 

There seems after all something childish in yesterday's 
law : we must not restore the Heptarchy in an edict : it 
would be a sad day when one felt oneself bound in every 
case to say " wobbling " instead of " oscillating," " red " 
is " red " Saxon ? instead of " vermilion." And of 
course the true way to meet the danger, lurking in the 
Latin, of slovenly thought and bungled metaphor, is to 
use no word, from whatever tongue, that has not been 
dusted and studied and approved for its place. 

February 8, 1907. 

I perceive that he is very superstitious : it is not the 
demon-dread, the SewnSoi/^ovta ; thirteen and Friday do 
not frighten him : it is rather the contrary, an instinc- 
tive, unceasing, foolish feeling of good spirits watching 
over him very kindly in the smallest matters. When he 
stops to reason, he waves the whole hierarchy of them 
away with a smile : but every day and all day long he is 
paying them a silent homage : if he has the notion of 
laying a log across another on the fire and it insists on 
falling flat, he lets it stay, not out of indolence but out of 
deference to another will : if in typewriting, when he has 


to point back to 15, the index shows 16 against his will, 
he bangs the letter with a conviction, unquestioned for the 
moment, that the thing is ordered so. All day long a score 
of little obediences and obeisances are so offered ! he 
waits ceaselessly on the little gods of the fire and of the 
desk and of the bookshelves, of the omnibus and of the 
shop. Is this a mere idiocy, or a stupid outward acting 
on a true deep intuition ? There seems, in any case, to 
be need of a word less pejorative than " superstitious " and 
less pompous, or hieratic, than " spiritist " ? 

February 17, 1907. 

It is, very likely, a grave mistake to read any one writer 
too often or too deeply : perhaps Schopenhauer is wrong: 
if one thinks over, " studies," another man's thoughts 
while his phrases are still fresh printed on the brain, one 
almost surely fails to find oneself in the matter then, or 
perhaps ever afterwards : he has taken up all the place, 
and one cannot hear oneself for the noise he has made : 
for years afterwards if one has taken, in one reading or in 
several thinly spaced readings, the hard impress of his 
idea, the strong wash of his phrase, the brain chambers 
reek of him, the thought runs too easily in the channels 
he has cut, a network of his setting pegs down and maps 
out the lava ? that can then no more follow its own natural 
paths. I begin to think that, in all reading undertaken 
for other than historical, critical or purely fancy-feeding 
and joy-giving purposes, one should merely skim and put 
by. Some Hide one will always hold, enough to breed 
thought, not enough to stifle it ; what one takes in 
mingles, instead of crushing down in a hard lump : the 
reader will be an original, not an echo. The more tempt- 
ingly a writer lures the more swiftly one should flee him 
except, always, for the poets, for the pure artists of 
poetry or prose. Every writer, who has other ends than 
to paint pictures and tell stories, is plotting against the 
freedom of every reader ; the thing is to take from him 

JOURNAL 1907 99 

not what he wants to force on you, but what you yourself 
need : if you don't cheat him he cheats you. 

February 19, 1907. 

How we are fooled by words. Bourgeois, bourgeoisism, 
how hateful in our Latin-Quarter days, however un- 
Latin we be in heart and act. I always saw, however, 
that bourgeoisism is a hardened mysticism : nearly all 
the virtues of the bourgeois are true virtues of the poet 
too ; the artist is deeper as well as saner for being the 
faithful husband of one wife and keeping healthy hours 
and temperate diet. The mischief is that the bourgeois 
too is fooled by words : he lives his virtue (and judges 
others) by formula, not in the freedom of the children of 
the Light, and formulas are starched robes ; forced upon 
a lovely figure, they will often make it look out of law and 
ugly. The thing is to be bourgeois in act with a free 
soul : and especially not to measure another man's life 
by an iron bar, but by a silken band that will ripple over 
the ruggednesses and, if the man be true, will show him 
true by the numbers, though all the build be strange. 

February 21, 1907. 

One great use of keeping such a record as this is that one 
learns what blank things most of one's days are : reading, 
talking, eating, writing without interest or emotion, the 
days go by, blank : and it is life that passes : days make 
life, and if the days are blank it is terrible. The only 
good thing in life is to have a vivid mental activity and 
some human love to warm it : all the rest is cold as fuel 
without fire. I believe it is a moral duty to think and 
to love ; because it is a duty to live, and these are life. 

February 22, 1907. 

I have vowed to give one half hour at least every day, 
at any cost, to reading Irish and mod. Greek alternately. 
I cannot bear to think of not being able to read Gaelic 


fluently before I die, and I will not let modern Greek 
perish off my lips if only by way of homage to the ancient 
holy land and in the faint hope that someday, somehow, 
I may see it again with clearer eyes and richer under- 

February 23, 1907. 

Reading Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria": it is a 
rich incoherence, a style that sometimes suggests Sir 
Thomas Browne and sometimes Ben Jonson (" Discover- 
ies ") and sometimes Plato and sometimes some subtle 
modern, perhaps Pater, and often an ambitious schoolboy 
or an illiterate inspired contributor to some village paper. 
If I chanced on this book by the luck of the counter, I 
would almost certainly have fingered it a while, shaken 
my head, and put it down with a sigh for crude talent : 
how many as rich writers may there not be who, because 
they have not had the fortune to be poets and so to have 
made a hearing for themselves for all they put out, have 
perished having given none of their good to living soul. 
To last may be only for genius, but genius itself will not 
last unless it show in a mellow style, clear or exceptionally 
powerful and above all one in its texture -unless, of course, 
as in C.'s case, from some such other circumstance as 
having fought a good and resonant fight or having fine 
poetry to be lamp to a dirty rich prose. 

February 24, 1907. 

De Quincey, now, seems to me to be almost, of all 
moderns whom I know, the man who most writes ; as some 
pictures give the feeling that every brush-stroke was 
thought and judged and tried and only after such a test 
allowed to stand, so every de Q,. sentence tells of thought 
and choice, and every word in its place seems willed. 
And what delicious plirases that paint or sing or smell 
sweet, or have a quiver of moonlight on them, or go with 
the solemn splendid glory of a great brave pageant : and 


always, I think as far as I have noticed, prose is prose and 
all falls featly, simply, as falling from a rich and a grace- 
fully-stocked mind by the will to be full and true and 
very exact and persuasive, never in the spirit of self- 
display, never in a tawdry oriental embroidering. 

February 28, 1907. 

Writing for the Freeman : of the choice of matter, I say 
nothing, and nothing of the wisdom or folly of my views, 
but I notice, with the beginnings of contentment, that as 
the words fell on to the paper they fell with a certain neat- 
ness : I said more nearly what I meant to ; there was 
more grammar, more logic (within, possibly, a large 
unreason) ; metaphors were truer, cleaner, clearer ; 
there was, with no brilliance, little or no dirtiness ; the 
thing seemed to me to bear the mark of a careful gentle- 
man. Hence I pronounce this, that as old experience 
doth attain to something like prophetic strain, so all 
comely facility traces back to long pondering ; intuitions 
are the reward of ancient gropings. I pronounce this 
also, that ill-paid work which does not shock one's taste 
is pleasanter far to do than the vulgar which much 
enriches especially, perhaps, when the vulgar gold still 
rolls in. 

March 8, 1907. 

Politeness, deeply searched, is but savagery. Instinc- 
tively we neither ask it nor use it in our dealings with our 
nearest ; the easier manner that rules within the house- 
hold may be a lurking danger to peace and lasting good- 
will, but it is the seal and token of a friendly union to 
which savage domineering and savage placation are alike 
strangers. To the enemy outside our own cave we come 
with smiles and bowing, either as a sign that we are not 
going to club him this time or as a prayer to him not to 
club us. The merely ceremonial observances, therefore, 
as apart from a kindly care of not wounding or harming, 


are a declaration of enmity with a plea for truce some- 
times indeed a treacherous plea, for we are never so polite 
as just before we club. Politeness turns the enemy's eyes 
away, and the blow falls the truer. The husband wlio is 
polite to his wife is out of love with her for the moment, 
and a mother is never polite to her child. Business is 
always polite : it is " dear Sir " and " your favour of the 
6th" and "yours faithfully," and bang goes your six- 
pence. You cannot think of anyone being polite to God 
or God to anyone else : it is because there can be no war 
and perhaps no hate between Good-Power and Littleness. 
Before the divine, savagery is burned away. 

March 9, 1907. 

Is it mysticism or is it madness or is it both ? He finds 
himself quite often sunk in long rambling dreams opened 
up by such strange objects as bottles. The sight of a row 
of wine-bottles, empty, ranged on the lid of a coal-box, 
stirs the question why does everything we drink go in 
bottles, in glass and of one of two sizes and forms ? Tiens, 
it must be because drink is fluid. But why are drinks 
fluid ; why must fluids go in bottles and not in boxes ? 
What is the essential difference between a box and a 
bottle, between a fluid and a liquid, between a bottle and 
a fluid, between a man and a bottle or a fluid ? And so 
on, until he might grow old listening to his thoughts. He 
thinks, deep down under all the bottle-thoughts, that he 
is drawing near to the Secret : he wakes to be afraid of 
the fool's-coat. 

March 10, 1907. 

Often it is not foolish to prize the shadow over the sub* 
stance. The pigeons strutting on the floor of the balcony, 
or sidling along its iron-work with cautious peering out of 
inquict eyes, are welcome visitants : but there is almost 
a catch at the heart when, as they fly by unseen, there 
sweeps over the walls of the room the shadow of their 


wings. To-day, too, in the Luxembourg, as I looked at 
the sun-lit trunk of a tree and there fell for a wing-beat 
on the bark the black shadow of a bird minding his own 
business between the tree and the sun, I had a sense of an 
angel passing. That is it, the shadow is often the angel 
of something nobler than any substance : the shadow of 
the wings tells not merely of a passing body but of sun 
and of infinite space and of strange laws and of free wild 
life and of all life and power and law. I suppose the 
shadow is often the awakening of all the mystic sense of 
a child : I remember well being haunted by my own 
shadow and angry with it, and entranced by the shadows 
of trees lengthening and devouring the yellow-green of 
the sunny grass. 

March 14, 1907. 

There are trees that are all a-strain upward like a 
prayer ; there are trees that rise only to flow eternally 
downwards, drooping like death ; there are trees that are 
all a-twist, an agony of contortion, writhing, serpenting 
now towards earth and now towards sky, inwards and 
outwards, upwards and downwards, tortured uncertain 
lives, very dreadful and very beautiful : but in all the 
trees there is beauty, and the birds of God rest and nest 
and sing in all. 

March 18, 1907. 

I find I haven't the art of rest. When Fm too tired to 
work at something which must be done but is distasteful, 
I give it up and work just as hard and long at something 
else : I take a defeat of the will instead of the frank brief 
rest that would make the distasteful work possible. 
Probably the great workers of the world have been the 
great masters of the art of resting. 

March 23, 1907. 

When a man has nothing to write it is that he has not 
sufficiently lived : most of our days we are dead. I can 


imagine very well what joy there is meant in the Christian 
Beatific Vision or the neo-Platonic ecstasy : it is the fulness 
of living, a ceaseless straining of the burning point of the 
unsheathed spirit, the cumbering body shaken off* the 
diverse earth now passed out of sight, distracting, luring, 
dazing now no more : it is the flame of the mind never 
quenched or downed or twisted awry ; it is the intent 
living towards the only life. And it seems hard and 
strange that so noble a hope, once come into the world 
from the heart of men, should have no truth beyond the 
world. Credo quia humanwn est. But it is a hope full of 
terrors : what if one were never to be worthy, what if . 

March 28, 1907. 

It seems a token and habit of older age to feel very 
deeply the charm there is in every display of life : I love 
it yearly more and more in the antics and questions of 
children, in the roaming of a baby's surprised eyes, in the 
sparrows (now as I write) cracking seeds on the balcony 
so busily, happily, jealously, pugnaciously in the white 
shimmer of apple-blossom I saw yesterday at Clamart, 
and in the garden there in the dusk, when we walked under 
the chestnuts and wondered at the noble curves of their 
spring shoots, flowing, naked long withes of an exquisite 
bend topped with a fresh green tuft which was borne 
upwards in a proud gesture of happy achievement and 
glad homage, towards the sun. When I was a child, a 
boy, a young man adolescent, I felt at no time that I had 
any right or place in the world : now it seems to me that 
only for such is the kingdom of earth, for those that are 
filled with the life of youth, and for all things that show 
no beginning of morose decay, 

March 29, 1907. 

There is something high fantastical in the thought that 
if every day of my life I had a good hot piece of gossip, 
about some millionaire fool or some powerful business man 

JOURNAL 1907 105 

at play, to cable to New York, I should be well off and 
considered from New Year to Christmas ; but if I put 
comely English about Plotinus and give him for the first 
time and perhaps for all time entire and clear and 
pleasantly readable to America and Australia and Eng- 
land, I shall certainly go about in old clothes and shrink 
from facing a post-office clerk. When I did very little, 
and that better left wholly undone, I was a fatted bour- 
geois : work begins only when " the dear little cheques " 
that paid me for an ugly idleness cease to flutter in. 

April 4, 1907. 

There is a sort of restless kindliness, imbecile and lower- 
ing to the human person : do not in an April shower run 
out to hold an umbrella over a bee. 

April 6, 1907. 

Three things alone seem to me unquestionably great 
in Greece : Plato and Sculpture and Pindar ; and a 
fourth seems to me probably very great too, a life of 
beauty and harmony very generally lived though when 
I read Aristophanes I wonder how much of this is our 
fond dream. Sophocles seems to me great in Antigone, 
and Euripides in the Bacchae, and Aeschylus, though 
with some reserve, in the Prometheus : but in all the rest 
I feel an uneasy sense of incompleteness and blundering 
and stammering, and I doubt sometimes whether I admire 
very sincerely, whether I do not cheat myself, force 
myself, whether a large part of my pleasure is not perhaps 
in the mean triumph of the child pleased with the dull 
thing he has himself spelled out because he has spelled it 
out. But Pindar he seems to me wholly, authentically, 
with no reserve great, great in almost every moment, line 
and word and movement and meaning : you think of 
magnificence when you read him : you think of every 
art and of every personal nobility : he moves you as some 
infinitely rich and powerful music. 


April ii, 1907. 

The Yogi outlook on life, the Yogi disdain or unconcern, 
seems sometimes a huge lie as a height or a lowness 
inhuman. Yet M. for all but a few moments each clay 
goes very quietly about his Pindar or his Corneille or his 
Shakespeare or his Gaelo-Romaic half hours, 1 though he 
stands at a very doubtful turn of the short road just 
about to lose a well-paid employment, 2 stepping from 
financial peace to moneyless labour and anxiety and to 
many inevitable disappointments, not sure of his health, 
not sure of making for wife and mother the easy graceful 
way of life he should and must. . . . 

Nothing in him really cares, nothing in him is even 
occupied by the crisis. Is it childishness or is it wisdom ? 
Is it perhaps both, because the two are one ? Somehow, 
from some source unknown, the man has a conscience : 
these outer things, however dire they look, have never 
really troubled his peace : yet let him think that in any 
way he has done wrong, in a word, in a frown, in a gesture, 
and he suffers deeply. This is a natural Yogi-ism : if 
only it were at call for the little daily trials of temper as 
it is for the great threatening disasters, the man would 
be a rare fellow. The fact, however, that he isn't able 
to keep the daily peace, " having his own will with perfect 
sweetness,' 5 shows that there may be here at least as much 
of weakness, thinness of blood and dulness of brain, as of 

May 4, 1907. 

To-day Arthur Lynch takes my bishopric and I am 
free, and from to-day I begin to think how best to make 
straight my ways both towards livelihood by the pen and 
towards some useful and interesting work in Irish politics. 
Despite all my roamings, my heart has always been in 
Ireland, and though I cannot renague Greek and Plotinus 

1 See above, p. 99. " Romaic '* is modern Greek. 

a As continental representative of the JVo Tork World ; see memoir, p. 31 . 


I do greatly deplore that in and by their reign I have 
broken, not in heart and not in thought, but as far as 
persistent act goes, my early vow of loyalty to Fodhla. 1 
Henceforth it is to be first Ireland and second politics, 
supported by journalism (or literature, if the gods were 
good), and then third but very dear Greek and 
Plotinus. And I like to set down for my own later 
memory this true word : that though my thoughts of 
making a career in politics are due, unquestionably, to 
my breach with the JV. T. World, yet I act in entire 
honesty, believing that I may serve some good end and 
make my life in every spiritual and cc teleological " way 
better, as being vowed to a noble cause which has always 
had all my love and hope. 

May 20, 1907. 

A fruitless, costly decade in London. M. R., Northrop, 
S. Gwynn. Now begins the task to make money by 
writing, to learn Irish and master the problems and 
politics and personalities of Ireland, to keep Greek bright 
and Plotinus simmering, to watch modern French litera- 
ture and not to let modern Greek slip out of mind. I am 
to read much English literature, especially the rich older 
writers, but with the greatest care to save myself from the 
snare of "specialising": my one end, ever clearly in 
view, must be, after enjoying in all simplicity their beauty, 
to pluck their mystery from them, to learn in my degree 
their art and to harvest me their words, their rich strength: 
they are to be to me not a " subject " but for delight and 
for use. Worked only about 2 hours, on a story. 

July 17, 1907. 

I have left this book unwritten for more than a week 
a week of Irish political study and every day as I have 

1 A traditional poetic name for Ireland. 


fingered it, trying to get courage to write, I have found 
a deeper unwillingness, a sort of stiffness in the joints as 
it were winter fattened limbs labouring to drive a mud- 
clogged bicycle. The spirit has been unwilling and the 
flesh weak. Even a little needful letter-writing has been 
painful and the outcome poor. It is clear that study, the 
taking-in with ever so much zest and with careful thought, 
is perilously impersonal : a man to keep his brain in 
working trim must not merely think, he must also act : 
thought without some putting-out (whether of the matter 
mainly dwelt upon or of some other) settles soon into a 
kind of torpor. The mind knows at once the body's 
drowse, and may shake it away ; but there is nothing 
within the mind by which it may know its mindlessness ; 
its only means of seeing itself is, like the eye's, a mirror : 
and the mirror of the mind is its act put outside of itself, 
at once its outcome and its looking-glass. The sun is 
seen only by its own light, and the mind is appraised only 
by its own outgoing action. Unfortunately there is so 
little good talk that the outward act must be most often 
done on paper : talking, one is most often benumbed by 
others' stupidity or by one's own, and in cither case there 
is no faithful imaging : the unoffending paper takes all 
and adds nothing, in almost no way reacting upon the 
thinker, and so gives a nearly true picture of the mental 
state* And hence the wisdom of the Nulla dies sine lima. 

August 6, 1907. 

I think the finest things and the subtlest, not less than 
the thin fare of the ungrown mind, may be carried, and 
best, in simple wording and in clear sentence-building. 
The very noblest of the classic French literature uses 
scarcely a word and never, I think, a sentence-flow that 
could call even the least read reader to even a moment's 
halt : all that such a one can miss is the soul, the deeper 
meaning and the warm feeling that give life to the plain 
words. And there is no reader so awakened or so eager 


that this may not readily slip out of his sight under cover 
of mist and among the folds of rocky ground. 

A certain strangeness, that perhaps must play always 
ove? good writing, is not obscurity : rather it makes for 
a clearer understanding ; it calls for slow-going that there 
may be thought and enjoyment, but it does not bewilder 
so that even for a second there be a doubt of the way ; 
it is for freshness that wings the meaning, not for a murki- 
ness that dulls and dims. 

August 7, 1907. 

Murkiness may sometimes have a place in good writing, 
as heavy shadow, a religious gloom, sometimes in a cathe- 
dral : but it must be used, not merely allowed to slip in, 
and it must be rare : it is a " figure of speech/' like 
" personification " or " rhetorical question." And the 
way must be opened to it very carefully, so that it shall 
be a half-light, a softening of hard outlines, a side-chapel 
off a clear nave, not a pit of forbidding darkness, 

August 13, 1907. 

If a violinist tries to make his instrument " speak," 
making literature under his chin, he becomes loathsome, 
sentimental ; if a writer tries mainly to make his sentence 
ripple and sing, laugh and groan, he is very near to 
becoming merely sensuous ; and the sensuousness of the 
violin will always be the nobler. Every art knows its own 

August 15, 1907. 

Everybody reading the Bible I suppose is pulled up by 
an uneasy feeling that morality never elsewhere came 
holding out so many gifts. It is a ceaseless bribery : 
Keep the Sabbath and your days will be long in the land ; 
Be chaste and you will become a woman of three cows ; 
Serve God and He will serve you. It seems to me that 
England and America owe to their Bible reading their 


curiously commercial virtue : Celtic nations, in their 
vices as in their virtues, are less calculating, more instinc- 
tive, 1 because they have not had this century-long training 
in the cash-down system of morality. I am temp ted* also 
to find the beautiful melody of the Authorised Version a 
hurt to its spiritual power : there is something of a lulling 
sing-song, very fatal, in long use, to the upspring of an 
eager morality speaking out of and growing in itself, apart 
from all book and tradition : the singular rise and fall of 
sound, very grave and cloisterish, weaves a spell that puts 
thought to sleep : active feeling for right is quenched in a 
comfortable sentimentality : the flow of the sentences, 
whether one reads for oneself or for others, calls for a 
chant, and chant breeds cant, or at any rate dulls the 
edge of the soul : all except the hard matter-of-fact in this 
morality becomes as it were a mere Sunday anthem. I 
think the Catholic Church is wise : much Bible-reading 
would not be good for the mass. 

August 17, 1907. 

Once I was placid over the stupidities of others and did 
not feel any in myself, now I rage over both : I become 
bitter as I grow old, more bitter still when I foresee for 
myself a peevish, snarling old age. It is very well to make 
rules for keeping outward peace, and the rules may do 
their work ; but what a dismal thing to have to live under 
rule lest one become a raging curse. 

August 19, 1907* 

Platitudes arc, after all, only the neat packing of good 
sense so that it can be carried about : they are useless, 
like a portmanteau, until you put your own key to them ; 
then by them you live and work. 

August 20, 1907. 

A man's notion that he has this or that quality, seems 
to be almost always the stirring of that something really 

1 Marginal note in MacKenna's handwriting : ** Are they, though ? " 


there : perhaps it may be true also that the desire of 
something to be within him is the sign, not yet clearly read, 
that the something is there, though deep-down, crusted 
ovfir and not yet wholly able to shine out in the unmis- 
takable brightness of the idea itself. Desire would be as 
it were the dim life of the thing of which idea was the 
clearer fuller life : from the desire of the thing to the idea 
of the real presence of the thing is not a great step : from 
the idea of the real presence of the thing to the use and 
enjoyment of the thing is hardly a step at all. Herein is 
much magic. 

August 24, 1907. 

Consider how ideas come : they must be at least partly 
from within, something within the man catching at out- 
side things, or caught by them, and taking from them 
some image to be worked within the man into a feeling, 
a thought, a piece of will. This idea (feeling, thought, 
will) then comes largely from the strange Me, is a part of 
the unknowable Me : when I welcome it, brood over it 
again, I am merely tending to be Myself ; whatever idea 
I seek to foster towards strength is already in being within 
me, and it grows strong and stronger by the very fact that, 
of all the Me, this part rather than another part is fostered 
by the Me. I am ready to believe that something like this 
is meant by the doctrine that in single-heartedness and 
little-childhood is the way to Salvation : it is not meant 
that children by their innocence are near to heaven, but 
that all good is gained by those whose thought and life 
are kept pointed close to one main thing, not scattered 
abroad upon a thousand. Spill your thought, let your 
idea go straying in a maze of zig-zags, and there is no one 
central point from which the Me governs all there is 
almost no Me, because there is no Me holding all the 
powers and faculties in one firm grip. The Me that came 
upon the earth has been whirled about and is dizzy and 
faint, and asks only for ease or for the not-being towards 


which it is drifting. Until it come, perhaps, to non-being 
after death it will never have the ease it sighs for : its 
ease is in its being, and in its activity after its kind, because 
only so does it know its being. f 

September 27, 1907. 

I am not interested in facts once I have sucked the good 
out of them for myself ; therefore I make a poor hand at 
all that kind of journalism which coasts upon reporting. 
I have too little imagination, insight, mastery of masses, 
too short and dim a sight, and too little courage and self- 
trust, to create any powerful work of literature. There 
remain only, in the writing life, the work of reasoning 
upon the daily happening and the work of lightly touching 
in very simple style upon the grave things which true 
literature handles in a strong grip. I have the essay and 
the " leading article. 19 An miiineadh ! do 'em. 

October 6, 1907. 

Our spiritual troubles we may, or some of us may, put 
off from us cc Come unto Me, all yc that labour and are 
heavy burdened, and I will give ye rest " : but no one died 
for our brain's peace, and there is no one upon whom we 
can put off, any one of us, the rubbing burden of our 
mind's discomforts. This thought alone is enough to make 
religions seem thin and untrue as dreams are. 

October 8, 1907. 

Never, I think, was man born to be, more than myself, 
a Waiter : I am like the Princes of Greece round Pene- 
lope, a ten years* Wooer : I am always in my mind wait- 
ing for some bell to ring that never rings, for some wonder- 
ful thing to happen that never happens. I try to show 
myself that luck follows work as harvest comes by plough- 
ing : deep clown I have never believed it ; I cannot 
believe it ; I cannot make myself believe it. 
1 Irish, u the moral." 

JOURNAL 1907 113 

November 12, 1907. 

Blake says, " Men are admitted into heaven, not be- 
cauje they have curbed and governed their passions or 
have no passions, but because they have cultivated their 
understandings." This is very widely a mark of the 
modern mysticism : it is not found in Thomas A Kempis, 
and not in Eckhardt : it is, or something that begins to 
look like it is, in Rosmini. It is, however, under all 
Plotinus ; and knowledge, science of natural things, is a 
main step in his Ladder to the Beyond. It would seem 
that here again the Greek mind, even borrowing from 
the Egyptian or other Eastern thought, still kept its 
aa)(f)pocrvv7] : the mind of the Middle Ages, coloured from 
the monastery, filled with the idea of giving up the world, 
not of using it, is really a sort of Orientalism : monks are 
Yogimen : the Renaissance brought sanity into religion 
as much as it brought back the idea of joy into the arts 
and into the morals of the daily life. 

November 13, 1907. 

There is something accidentally deep in the saying put 
into the mouth of the Irishman who, hard-pressed about 
Transubstantiation " How can Bread be God ? " 
answered, " What else would it be ? " It sometimes seems 
that all there is in the world that is not God is man : I 
feel a queer little quivering of God in a buttercup and an 
oak-nut ; it is not common to me to feel any in myself, 
and when I read of a mass of men say at a public meeting 
I always shudder in a horrid thought of perforated 
lumps of flesh : I can't bear the thought of human beings 
except when I think of beauty or intelligence or rare and 
cloistral goodness in them and one cannot think of these 
lovely things shining in a crowd. 

December 3, 1907. 

All the labour and thought I have spent upon words, 
these many months past, upon choice and setting of words 


and on the clear flow of sentences, stands to style only as 
scourging and fasting to holiness : these are steps in the 
purgative way : style is far beyond all this ; it is personal 
thought and emotion breaking out into beauty and new 
power, as naturally as the sun's heat breaks into rhythmic 
cascades of lovely sovran light. When a soul is fallen and 
soiled within the body,, it must cleanse and redress, but 
it must not glory in the cleansing or even in the being 
clean : it has still very far to go. 

December 4, 1907. 

Synge once told me that all the sadness he had in the 
thought of death was that while he lay there cloistered 
the seasons would come and go and he know nothing of it 
all : his tone and look as he said it made it to me the 
sorrowfullest thing I ever heard of death. Sometimes to 
myself there comes a curious thought that in the grave I 
may hear no poetry, read no more philosophy, care 
neither for the Elizabethans and Wordsworth and 
Browning nor for Plotinus and the mysteries ; and when 
I think sometimes that perhaps I may (in some sense or 
some other) "go to heaven/ 5 the thought that then I 
may have gone so far beyond as to have no more care for 
these things comes to me as a fear. I suppose, though, 
that this is sad childishness or is it the human dread of 
a dreamless Nirvana the fulness of knowledge so close to 
non-feeling, almost non-being ? 

December 5, 1907, 

Whenever I look again into Plotinus I feel always all 
the old trembling fevered longing : it seems to me that 
I must be born for him, and that somehow someday I 
must have nobly translated him : my heart, untravelled, 
still to Plotinus turns and drags at each remove a length- 
ening chain. It seems to me that him alone of authors I 
understand by inborn sight, I alone of possible translators 
though I am forced to see that Principal Caird is not 

JOURNAL 1907 115 

far behind me. Would I had been born a leisurely 
Protestant parson, a scholar in an oak-raftered parsonage 

December 6, 1907. 

There is no beauty, and little use, in the virtue that's 
always muttering of laws and running off to turn over 
text books : such a virtue there might be in a fiend afraid. 
The only goodness worthy of a human soul, or a human 
Best, is the quiet fruit of a ceaseless contemplation : beau- 
tiful thought left ever in the sun ripens surely ; it is only 
the apple fallen from the bough, unkissed by the light, 
untossed by the high-blowing winds, that unripened rots. 

December 10, 1907. 

I wonder has any one studied the history of Remorse, 
I mean of mental penitence. It does not seem that the 
asceticism of old was penitential : men went out into the 
desert, or scourged themselves, or begged their way naked, 
for self-mastery's sake, and not for expiation ; not to 
atone, not to pay, but to cure themselves : it was a 
medicine of the soul, and there does not seem to have 
been more shame over the past sickness of the soul than 
we have over the sickness of the body. In any other sense 
than to re-make oneself (putting away the evil and doing 
good), to repent for past misdoing is like spending new- 
found health in living over again the misery of old ill- 
nesses. The duty of Remorse and of penitential humble- 
ness must have been invented by some hard-hearted 
Righteous Man * so that the Prodigal Son might not have 
the best of it all round riotous living and fatherly feasting 
both untainted by a due melancholy. I wonder did 
Christ preach, as John seems to have done, the penance 
of the mind : he orders the bringing forth of " fruits 
worthy of penance/ 5 1 know and that seems a great deal 
more healthy than " penance " pure and simple. Plato 

1 Marginal note in MacKenna's handwriting : " I suppose Remorse is 
Jew, tout stmplement" 


and Plotinus did not ask for long faces or sick brooding, 
nor, I think, did the Stoics : you must put away the soil of 
the soul and live nobly ; but from that first conversion- 
moment you were Katharos, and unless you lapsed again 
you might go very cheerfully along the upward path. 
Their virtue was at once active and intellectual : it was 
not of the heart so much as of the deed and of the brain. 
There is something of this too in the Catholic idea of 
confession and absolution, and then great gaiety till you 
sin again. 

December 11, 1907. 

Found myself, surprised myself, with a prayer on my 
lips, a prayer to Plotinus that I might translate him : I 
am certain it would be as well to pray to him for any virtue 
as to pray to St. Augustine or St Patrick, but I think 
Plotinus would not be pleased with this my prayer : it 
would seem to him a worldly thing, still. It is very 
strange to me as I write this to feel that perhaps very 
truly he looks down upon me writing : at least that is 
what the Catholic Church means with her " Communion 
of the Saints and Intercession of the Saints " : can they 
really believe that the Once Human, now ravished in the 
Beatific Vision, do look down upon the upper room of 
No. i, Goldhurst Terrace, Finchley Road, where the 
Wax Lady waits at the door ? Amazing the things one 
can believe when one is called homo. 

December 16, 1907. 

I am lost in wonder at the mystery of Patriotism. Why 
should I care what Ireland is now when I do not live in 
it, or what Ireland may become when I am dead ? Yet 
I do, with a passion of love and pity and rage. This is 
the only thing that makes me see any sense in the Comtist 
idea of humanity in the long future as a compelling object 
of religion. 

JOURNAL 1907 117 

December 18, 1907. 

I notice that these notes become steadily more careless 
in style : they were meant for gymnastic as well as for 
true recording : the gymnastic has slipped away, and I 
hurry the bare noting of ideas. Reform it, altogether ? 

January 15, 1908. 

36 to-day, and nothing done. I feel that my life is one 
long series of beginnings : I am always planning for next 
year, always working towards something, never at some- 
thing. The one clear reason whether 'tis an excuse or 
not, I don't know is that nothing that is within my 
power interests me or seems worth doing. I am interested 
in Plotinus : to translate him into beautiful English and 
then to interpret him and press him into the use of this 
century seems to me, has always seemed to me, really 
worth a life but I have not been able to give the work 
all my time and thought : I must write bosh and run 
about the world on stupid people's tracks. So also, to 
write good English, and with it to say some good simple 
thing, seems to me well worth doing : I must bang out 
rubbish for a scant market : I cannot yet write English, 
because it does not come naturally to me and I haven't 
time to learn at peace. Gaelic literature would seem to 
me worth a life to master it, expound it, put it to use for 
Ireland : and Ireland itself to be doctor and expositor 
of Ireland's need and claims and methods, to help by 
writing and speech and action at putting the new soul into 
Ireland, that too would suffice me, but I must first live or 
try to make a living. I utterly lack the power many or 
most men have of working indifferently well at some one 
trade for livelihood while keeping two or three passionate 
efforts always marching quietly but surely on towards the 
great ends that are the real meaning and use of life. And, 
deep down, I cannot find in myself, in power or vision, 
any reason for believing that I can really add anything to 
the world, do any service : and anything less than such 


an effective service as will reach far beyond myself seems 
to me utterly unworthy. I have no interest in trifles, in 
trifling things or trifling people, and, being below or out- 
side of the serious, I become trifling myself. The otlfers 
I quietly scorn ; myself I scorn bitterly, angrily. I have 
just sent off to the Freeman an article, whose subject is 
quite good, whose underlying meaning should make it 
useful for Ireland, whose style is such that to put it out 
from the workshop deserves a beating. 

January 14, 

How deeply the primal curse is smitten into us like 
Milton's " forked arrow sore smitten into the Kingdom's 
sides." To-day has been a desert of morbid moping, 
nothing done : except for a couple of letters, begging for 
work, nothing even in my mind to be done. And because 
I have done nothing I am most unhappy, ashamed. In 
the darkness of the back streets of Kilburn, as there 
suddenly crashed in on me the thought that I had eaten 
and not worked, I blushed vividly, hotly : it was like 
being " convinced of sin," it most likely was exactly the 
same mood, not more and not less spiritual or moral than 
that Christian process. And I ask myself, why ? Why is 
it not enough to live as the animals do as the plants do, 
in their lesser life ? Is it because the plants and animals 
are, given the world, self-sufficing, and have, so to speak, 
always earned their own dinner? It seems a base 
morality that is always looking into the kitchen and count- 
ing the saucepans : " have you filled a larder by your 
toil ? Then you are a good man, bless you ! " " have 
you eaten without earning, then you are low ! " Yet 
somehow the larder has to be filled : why may I eat what 
another has got together ? Why may I have others to 
serve me, when I do not serve them ? Yet to follow on 
that trail is to kill all learning and all light of the mind in 
the world at least until the day when the whole social 

1 There is a slip in the dating, as the order of the entries shows. 


system shall be new-shaped so that every man can live 
by the work for which he is most fit and shall not be a 
slave even to that. Until these things are settled for us, 
b/ those that have the knowledge and judgement to 
settle them, we, who through our fault or our peculiar 
merit are not skilled in economy and psychology and 
statecraft, must merely do our little best in the world as 
we find it, and live for our best spiritual and mental 
health and well-being in an ill-based society, as we would 
live for these things in a society more justly disposed. 

February 9, 1908. 

No doubt a man must for his happiness and his dignity 
find something to do in the world and for the world ; but 
there may be men whose nobly-borne poverty is their 
work, whose playing with ideas is all their task as it is all 
the task of a child ; it may not be pleasant to know one- 
self born to be for ever of the Little Ones, but there 
precisely the virtue may be, in living honourably faithful 
to the duty of being always at school, learning painfully, 
humbly, in the Great Taskmaster's eye until he, as Brown- 
ing says, shall somehow, somewhere, find use for the 

February n, 1908. 

If the consecrated religions are doomed to pass away, 
and dogma and liturgy to become matters of learning or 
of poetry, there will still be mystics and mysticism : 
already, indeed, we see that the crumbling of the old 
faiths has enriched the soil for many strange forms of 
lawless, emotional religion. Men will believe something 
about the nature of the Cause and about the high mean- 
ing of man. But apart from this, which is perhaps vanity 
and hybris, there is another reason why Mysticism will 
always be in the world, and will grow as the shared, the 
communal faiths wane. Through religions and through 
literature and the arts and through the ceaseless widening 


of the common knowledge of human life, there has sprung 
in men a greater pity, the beginning of a deeper love : 
and once the religions with their neat promises of future 
redressing have ceased to set consciences too easily at fest, 
there must come a new brooding over the meaning of the 
world, a new searching after all justice and beauty and 
perfection. Henceforth men must always find in them- 
selves a gnawing greed for a good that the world does not 
give ; if they cease to pray to God, they will all the more, 
and all the more imploringly, consult their own Highest, 
which is but God more nearly seen ; all the old words of 
the mystics they will re-read in their own, the new sense, 
and they will find new words of their own for the new 
revelations of life's meaning and duties. There will still 
and always be men going in the evenings with eyes down- 
cast and glowing. And there will still and always be men 
and women in cloisters or hermitages or deserts, men 
afraid of life but not cowardly, men who cannot think they 
have anything to do with the world but to flee from it 
humbly not that they are idle or scornful, but that they 
feel no power to help the world and are afraid lest they 
soil it or soil themselves in it. 

February 14, 1908. 

There are two kinds of peacefulness the peacefulness 
of the sheep and the peace of Plotinus. The first is, in 
Man who is Nature self-acting, a vice ; the peace of the 
contemplative is at once the most beautiful and the most 
fruitful act of man. Even Tolstoi's peace of non-resistance, 
allowing for the moment all injustice, is in any but a 
savage and incurably cruel society an active force : I 
may kill a raging man whom I have raised in passion 
against me ; I may kill a crawling insect that in some way 
thwarts or vexes me : but I cannot long have peace in 
killing men who stand with folded hands to show me 
with reasonings like my own that I am doing wrong. 
There is a peace, however which I do not take to be 

JOURNAL 1908 121 

Tolstoi's which is simply injustice masked : it arms the 
wrongdoer by its silence, and the dagger which it has put 
into the hand of Injustice will make more than the one 
victim. The just peace speaks its mind very boldly ; it 
has thrown away the sword only the better to beat down 
injustice by its reasonings. Its method is slow sometimes 
so slow that even the sage must leave it for awhile and take 
to arms, as a sage might to-day for Ireland, if there were 
any hope that way but its victories are lasting and are 
themselves fruitful, bringing forth ever new victories, 
offspring of the once-sown seed of reason and beautiful 

February 16, 1908. 

Sincerity, one is apt to think, the utterance of the plain 
truth of one's thought and vision and feeling, is all that 
is needed for the raw material of literature : add a little 
grace of style, and you have the thing you seek, the book 
that is worth the writing and reading. It is true that is 
just the mischief of it. For this very utterance of the 
thing you see and feel is the whole matter of genius : 
nothing seems easier when you think of doing it, nothing 
seems easier when some one has done it : but try to do it, 
and you find it is like the creation of the world : it is 
selection from a chaos, it is seizing the eternally fluid, it is 
bringing from deep places to the plain daylight things 
whose whole secret meaning was in the dim half-lights, it 
is to clothe for beauty something whose excellence and 
life it is to be nakedly itself, untouched. And what a 
sharp sight must that be which shall see clearly down in 
the dark where the self lives and flickers. 

February 18, 1908. 

There is in Ireland, in politics, in criticism, in the 
treatment of differences in religion, a bitterness, very 
striking at first sight both in talk and in writing, which 
alone is enough to show that we are a backward people, 


paying by our lack of wisdom for the waste of force to 
which our history and our temper acting together have 
led us. Because in various ways we have been kept 
fighting, we have not, as a race, been learning : keenness 
has been made more keen, and passion, as Yeats says, is 
hot in Ireland though not, as he would have it, because 
the Irish are Celts and imagination, of the less useful 
kind, has not faded ; but we have not mellowed in studies, 
and there is no graceful equal interchange of thought 
among us ; we live in embattled camps and beat angry 
drums : it is exceedingly rare to find a Nationalist of any 
one school able to conceive that the non-Nationalist or 
the Nationalist of another policy can be sincere, upright, a 
well-wisher at heart to the country. They tell me, and 
I see many signs of it, that to value Synge's work is to be 
dreaded and disliked by the entire Gaelic League. Sinn 
Fein no doubt begins to think of using for practical pur- 
poses whatever aid Unionists may be willing to give : 
but it thinks it is using these strangers as unconscious 
tools, and its personal attacks on Parliamentarians seem 
to become all the fiercer, all the more stingingly bitter, 
all the more nastily personal, as if to make good the 
lessening or stifling of its hate towards certain Unionists 
by pouring out a deadlier stream of vitriol against the 
heretic Nationalist. We have yet to learn in Ireland that 
the greatest strength in almost all fights is to be strong 
nobly. We lessen ourselves, the better, we think, to meet 
our low enemy ; and behold, as we lower ourselves he 
rises with a sublimer head. This, I think, on both sides : 
hence we are for ever punching the air : no one wins 
because no one fights : only Ireland always loses. 

February 19, 1908. 

I find that Ireland is still mediaeval, beautifully and 
dismally mediaeval : the people is fantastic of speech, 
frank and simple and yet curiously respectful of dignities, 
superstitious and brawling and readily cowed : humorous, 

JOURNAL igo8 123 

neighbourly, not shrinking all the same from cruelties 
towards man or beast, too quick moving and thorough- 
going to be stayed by tenderness or far-seeing prudence 
in moments of passion : cleaner of soul than of body, yet 
pagan and near to the earth, but to an earth worked over 
by gods or spirits, an earth heaving with divinity. I am 
enraged to-day reading the Lenten Pastoral of the Bishop 
of Clonfert who, telling of the decisions of some Conference 
of Bishops, calmly warns the people that it is " henceforth 
a mortal sin " and reserved at that to give out alcoholic 
drinks at a funeral or at a wake : a clergy that can make 
upon a day a new mortal sin has surely the keys of hell 
and is very courageous in thrusting souls down into the 
fires of the hot place. And the curious thing a little 
comforting is that there will still be drinks at wakes even 
in the diocese of Clonfert ; good Catholics who on one 
side of their minds know that the Church can save or 
damn will, in the other side of their brains, mix drinks 
with glee and good fellowship : it is strange. I would 
like to see that bishop. 

March 26, 1908. 

Churches, liturgies and private devotional habits spring 
probably and have their use from the soul's curious trick 
of playing truant. If we have a soul at all, it is fairly 
certain that we have it not always : it flits away some- 
times, or shrinks down within us, exactly as the mind does ; 
and as there are absent-minded moments, so there are 
men and moments absent-souled. The mind may be 
very active, working at full power, but we know that we 
are dead at the time : there is no movement where the 
soul once beat with its wings bare ruined choirs where 
erst the sweet birds sang : something is certainly changed 
in us ; we are lessened, lonely. I do not find that the 
soul in its going or coming plays with the mind at all : 
sometimes when the brain is quickest, eagerest, there is 
most lift and radiance of the soul, the deep, warm sense of 


things above the mind ; sometimes when the brain is sunk 
to a dull puddle, the man is comforted with the sun and 
knows that somewhere, in some way, in some shape or 
kind " his Redeemer liveth," and in his flesh he knows 
the eternal things. The spirit bloweth where it listeth and 
we can only wait and hope. But it is well to have one's 
litany or liturgy for a safeguard in the dull times : the 
soul if it be, or as it must be if it is the best and highest in 
oneself will come back the sooner if the place be swept 
and garnished and the arm-chair set for it pleasantly by 
the fire : the exercises which seem quite foolish when the 
soul is there become the only saving when the place is 
empty and cold : they invite or compel the return and, 
as we can never foreknow the truancy of the soul, the 
disciplines are to be done always, 

AprilG, 1908. 

When one has tried long, and failed, to make for oneself 
a personal style by which to set down one's thoughts and 
feelings with graceful power, or perhaps has tried long, 
and failed, to form out of the mists of living some strong 
thought or picture worthy of a noble setting, it comes to 
seem better to try no more : a man's life must be for 
worthier things than wrestling hopelessly with an unkind 
nature and adding to the grief of weakness the torture of 
envy and wasting bitterness. But it is to be remembered 
that a man lives by running : when we stand, we are 
dead, as most of us are dead : I think that unless in one 
thing or another we are straining towards perfection we 
have forfeited our manhood. . . . Our perfection is in 
being imperfect in something whose perfection is to us 
the highest thing in life. Sometimes, for this, all life 
seems to me utterly a dream : the soul has come down 
and robed itself in flesh and folly to rest from its own high 
living, as a man might plunge himself in drunkenness to 
get rest from the strain of the world : our work here is 
but a dreaming in the soul that remembers and plays over 

JOURNAL 1908 125 

again its old high activities : it isn't the kind of the work 
that is prized in the eternal records, but the working : 
whf n something stirs, anything, it is to be known that the 
soul is the less heavily drenched, lives under the sleep, and 
will wake someday, by death, to a freshened life. 

April 1 8, 1908. 

Yesterday was Good Friday, and I was at the West- 
minster Cathedral for the morning office : quivering often 
with emotion for the beauty of the ceremonies and their 
old meaning and all the old human ripae ulterioris amor 
they tell of ; but quivering too over the mere distant sight 
of a noble old Irishman woolly white hair, domed front, 
delicately pointed lower face, most beautifully chiselled 
features, simple black clothes, unbroken poring on his 
book who stood to me for all that was ancient and noble 
and sound in Ireland, all that is Celt. And I couldn't 
separate the two emotions, or count one more holy than 
the other. 

June 23, 1908. 

The need of newness is the thing that most clearly 
marks off mind from either body or " soul " ; beef- 
steaks for the body, the devout brooding over a few old 
truths for the " soul " but the mind needs new problems, 
new answers ; its life is in a ceaseless changing. The 
body is the mystery we know nothing of; it works its 
own will and goes its own way, like a cat or a god ; as 
far as we know or have power over It, its joy springs from 
the secrets of its own dark life, it dies by its own calendar, 
and when we most think we are ruling it, it is obeying the 
order itself first gave. If we doctor it, we are but giving 
it the food it asked for, we don't know why ; if they cut 
into it for us, it must be trimmed only so far and no 
farther an inch more and something very strange comes 
upon us. It gives itself its own laws, and we obey them 


and it : the mystery is the body : it is the stranger : we 
can only gape at it when it stands in our doorway, and 
do our best to keep it in good humour, the awesopie, 
powerful, venerable stranger. There is something 
Egyptian about the body ; the mind is the Greek, child- 
ishly playing, running always after the new thing, growing 
daily, but usually not to a finer beauty. There is some- 
thing in us that seems deeper and truer than the mind, 
and we call it the soul : I sometimes find myself thinking 
that the soul is nearer to the body than the mind is : 
perhaps it is the eternity of the body : for, like the body, 
it is self-centred, dark, little changing, little answering : 
it too goes its own way, muttering to itself, and the mind 
playing by its skirts can guess only dimly at its thoughts. 
The mind seems little more than a flickering, babbling 
stream that may sometimes catch and throw up for a 
moment the Image of an Image : the body, I have 
thought, may be God or, as the Hebrews seem to have 
deeply conceived, the Image of God ; sometimes the body 
seems beautiful enough to be mysteriously That ; always 
it is strange enough to be That, or the fallen image of 
That, for it is shapely and stately and most wonderfully 
coloured and it has too its strange share of ugliness, of 
evil : beauty and ugliness, The Good and The Evil, 
is there not in that strange blend something akin to the 
God ? but the body dies ? And if it does ? is it not good 
Pauline lore that it shall rise again, even as the God that 
died rose again ? Et homo factus est. Christianity has 
curious depths. But it is better not to sound them. 

June 27, 1908, 

The moie I read in every language I trifle with, 
English, French, Latin, Greek, even the rather lush 
Gaelic the more I see that I really have yet no skill at 
all in writing. It is not merely that I have no art ; I 
haven't even the first base craft : it isn't that I'm not a 
sculptor ; I'm not even a mason, a neat chipper of the 

JOURNAL 1908 127 

stone. I read nowhere, outside of the very sorriest 
reporter-work, any prose less like prose than mine is : 
my work hasn't even the clearness and easy flow which 
are the first need of decent writing, as calm manners and 
clean clothes are the first marks of a " gentleman. 55 All 
I have, after all these years with their practice if not their 
effort, is a great enjoyment of the skill of others, with a 
quickening sense of the materials that lie to the prose- 
writer's hand. Perhaps, too, I have a large, ready stock 
of words. But the store is not the main thing : it is the 
use that counts : what is it to a man that he have a hun- 
dred thousand bricks, if he hasn't the skill to set them 
neatly, evenly, strongly one upon another to the building 
of a useful wall, that he have Shakespeare's richness of 
words, if he cannot put together a single comely, cleanly 
sentence ? For years I played foolishly with " the Phrase," 
seeking the bubble, self-esteem, even in the canon's teeth, 
defying all the sanctities if only I might anyhow please 
myself with a yell and a flare and a fit of ribald glee : now 
only I begin to know that it is not " the Phrase " that 
counts to any good ; it is " la Phrase " the Sentence, 
the orderly, suave and gracious setting of the true word 
in the clear meaning. This is the anatomy of style, as 
anatomy is the beginning of medicine and of surgery, of 
painting and of sculpture. The glory is to come later, if 
it ever comes ; as a man must first be sober before he can 
be a saint, and learn to behave himself before he climbs 
into the pulpit. 

July 8, 1908. 

When a man has no clear view, he will find no clear 
word. Style can't put forth what the mind has failed to 
take in. If I am to see at your will, you must see first, as 
if I am to be rich with your coin you must get a coin. 
Don't think you may trust to the force of a rough stroke 
to print in fresh strength on my brain things I have seen, 
known, loved of old : if you have not seen hard and clear, 


seen all, you will not light on the thing that worked on 
me, that still puts its spell on me. I will not leap to your 
rich gift : at most I will earn it with small joy ; I will 
have toiled to dig up the crock, and by toil I will be tired, 
too tired to care. If I see at all, I will see two things in 
a dim light I will see what I was told to see ; but, most, 
I will see my rage at the cheat that is put on me. Work 
kills joy : and the man that writes must set me at ease, 
or I cannot love him or prize him or see or feel with him. 
It is in the bond that, for the nonce, he is to work, I taste 
his fruits. 

August 10, 1908. 

I find myself haunted by the desire to write well if 
only with simple clearness, in sentences that can be read 
aloud. I don't understand why I feel so deeply the need 
of writing sentences that will pass the test of the " gueu- 
loir ": it is not because all the writers on style dwell upon 
it, for they irritate me by their dwelling on a law for 
which they give no reason : it seems simply that I feel 
the desire equally with them while, like them, I know not 
why. It's true that in writing for the Fieeman I always 
have in mind the thought that people are apt to read 
aloud at the breakfast-table a passage that has pleased 
them ; and when I am saying something I would like to 
see acted out I try very hard to ensure that, if a man 
should wish to pass it on to others, the form may enable 
him, even tempt him, to give it as I wrote it. But I know 
that this mere chance motive in the special case can't be 
the motive of what I feel to be a need in every case : I 
know that if I were writing a book, with no thought of 
more than one reader, I would still toil to make sentences 
easy to the voice : in vain I ask myself why. Can it be 
that in our blood and in our bones there is a memory of 
the long-past days when all writing was uttered, mouthed ? l 
I notice that for myself, unless by bringing force and 

1 Marginal note in MacKenna's handwriting : " Perhaps memory of 
early reading-lessons." 

JOURNAL 1908 129 

thought to the matter, I don't listen to a man's cadence : 
I have frequently approved, when reading without the 
voice, passages which on the test have refused the mouth- 
ing, have stuck in the throat or tripped up the breath, or, 
again, have annoyed my ear by ugly or useless repetitions 
of sounds or of words, or been feeble by the tags and tails 
they drag after them. Often enough, my own printed 
matter, even, though it has satisfied my eye-reading, 
has angered me when I have put it to the voice. And 
sometimes when I have worked the " scazons " over and 
given them a robust and easy gait I have found that I 
have lost, even to my own momentarily twisted or per- 
verted sense, merits of colour or of meaning more worth 
than any merit I have acquired in sound. It sometimes 
seems that this law should be counted binding only for 
drama, poetry, oratory and perhaps newspaper articles ; 
and that all subtle matter, all intimate, dreamy stuff that 
is not in its nature read aloud, should be free of all such 
gyves. Haec cogita. 

August 13, 1908. 

A day of nothingness, of prehumous death : pains and 
laze and brainlessness. Probably I could have saved this 
day and given it some value, had I but frankly from the 
early morning proclaimed a day of rest : it is always 
nobler to rest diligently than to work listlessly. Life is in 
activity, and if one can't be active in work the only living 
is to be lively in play. If one can't write seriously, one can 
read seriously : if one can't read long, perhaps one can 
think long : if one has no thoughts, one can read lightly : 
if one can't read light things or talk pleasantly, then better 
go to sleep, thus at last doing something seriously useful. 
If sin is sin by dampening life, then a morose dawdling is 
among the deadliest of sins ; it is a very subtle shaft of the 
Gillie nach chorp. 1 Few acts could sink a man further from 
God's service, or from the mastery of himself more fatally 
or more miserably, than spineless discontented actlessness. 

1 Imh : " the Devil," 


August 22, 1908. 

Cycling late through Stillorgan we passed a full tavern, 
the door wide open, sending out a flow of yellow lighten 
a dark road ; young girls and young boys, clearly fresh 
and good, lounging inside and on the steps ; one jovial 
rascal leaning with the naive ease of drunken enjoyment 
half over the counter, his face, full in the light, turned 
towards the road, grinning : 'twas a Teniers. I thought 
of the Russian traktir? of far things : somehow there was 
something utterly continental and strange in the scene ; 
an animation, a grouping, an ease that seemed poles apart 
from the stupid English pothouse I have seen of late. I 
longed to go in and be a part of it all, for observation's 
sake : the mischief is that if ever I did go in, all the life 
would go out : men are born to their little boxes and 
like the different tribes of animals, snails and cows and 
bees, are strangers always. 

October i, 1908. 

A month almost without writing and without thought. 
Let it roll away. In a long life there are some 600 months 
of truly conscious living, and there comes a time when it is 
wise to think that a great pile of months : if one looks on 
600 as a small number, the waste of one would seem a 
too hideous loss to be borne with sanity. I find myself 
often saying or vaguely remembering that of Whitman, 
" As the trees and animals are ": even our wasted months 
must have their use, or nothing is of use ; the waste must 
even be perfect use, it seems, or nothing is of use. This, 
however, is one of those metaphysical consolations which 
serve little enough in physical, actual griefs : it always 
remains a fact that if one's service can conceivably be at 
once useful and visibly null, then one belongs to the lower 
calling : one touches the animal or the vegetable. Per- 
haps if one were aware of some lofty sanctity or other 
purely spiritual use and service, the blank month might 
be felt as a noble retreat, a beautiful brooding, a ripening, 
l " tavern." 

JOURNAL 1909 131 

a full time of delicate effusion, a giving forth of fragrance 
to a world that is half a stench : but without that, what 
is there to live for but to do, sowing or reaping or giving 
to eat ? Myself I feel ceaselessly, sadly, that I have really 
no use or meaning in life, and that mainly because I have 
neither conviction, nor even sufficient acting-belief, of 
anything at all being useful in which I am able to help. 
The one thing on which I have never wavered all my life 
the whole body of my Irish faith is altogether beyond 
or outside of my working-power : I do not know how 
Ireland is to be freed or built up : I do not know whether 
it ever can : all I know is that I cannot imagine myself 
happy in heaven or hell if Ireland, in its soul or in its 
material state, is to be always English. Of course I would 
be fairly safe in throwing myself with all my power into 
the Gaelicising movements, but then I have no power : I 
have wandered too long in other countries and loitered 
down too many bye-ways, and I have never been able to 
be or do many things at once : there is Greek and there is 
Plotinus and there is English literature and there is the 
art of English writing and there is the vast field of things 
to be known of which I am ignorant quefain, mon dieu, 
quefaire ? 

January 3, 1909. 

Reading of late : G. Meredith's verse : Soph. Qed. 
Cols. : Thos. Becon (Parker Socy.) : Eurs. Bacchae (third 
time) : Canon O'Leary's Seadna> double-translating Gaelic 
to English and English back : Plotinus, dipping into here 
and there : W. Morris (Tauchnitz) first time : Swin- 
burne : Frank Norris, Octopus, Christmas : Egerton 
Castle, some sixpenny novel : Milton P.L., for third time 
as a whole I think. Much Yeats, prose and verse, and 
wrote 1500 word review in Freeman this January. 1 Great 
amount of newspaper and review matter : India, Balkans, 
unemployment, etc. 

1 Of. memoir, p. 38. 


Trend of thought : how to write short-limbed, clear-cut, 
readable, simple English : what are the bases of national 
wealth and prosperity : the bases of morals. 

January 6, 1909. 

At the Gaelic League, Micheal O'Briain, scamping his 
class and getting rid of the dull studious people, gathers 
two or three round the fire to talk. It is all on the decay 
of the race. In his own Irish-speaking island, he finds 
his own generation falling far short of their fathers and 
mothers : they are not so handsome, so massive, so 
strong of body, they are not so quick of mind, they are 
not so gay. The reason ? " Oh, they have too easy times 
of it. The old people faced the weathers and bore every 
sort of hardship : there was no tea in the morning before 
they went out to work : there was no white bread, but 
buttermilk and wheaten-bread (?). The young people 
must have their cup of tea before they'd look outside the 
door of a morning : they have everything to their mind, 
every sort of luxury (! ! !)." Michedl says that when the 
" old people " do know any English 'tis much better 
English than the children of to-day will ever get. And 
much more to the same effect a youth rising up against 
youth like a Hebrew prophet against the Hebrew. 

Putting apart all question of personality, pleasant or 
unpleasant, I find myself revering every born speaker of 
Irish : I value them more than any historical relic : if it 
were good for them I would feed them in the Prytaneum : 
they are miracles of survival of a noble ancient thing : 
their intellectual pedigree dates from 2000 or 3000 years. 
And God alone knows whether in fifty years or a hundred 
the whole line of them may not be ended ended in an 
English-speaking, English-thinking Ireland, to which 
these few or remnant would be a kind of savages. 

April 1909. 

I notice, with curiosity, that the longer I live, though 
many hopes fail and fall away and at last are almost 

JOURNAL igog 133 

forgotten, two stay firmly with me and grow. Neither is 
held by my reason ; both have to do with the heart and 
are for the impossible, as reason says coldly. I hope for 
the freedom of Ireland, soul and body freedom, Gaelicism 
and a flag : and I hope even yet to be able some day to 
write well in English ! even though I should never 
use the power, never write anything for more than its one 
day's life. The first hope I cannot account for : " this 
bird has built its nest with me." It can be only a reach- 
back to the dead sons of Enna through centuries of Gaelic 
life. The other hope seems to have a moral foundation. 
It is hard at best to find any meaning in life at all ; im- 
possible, unless by way of some action, something by 
which one especially lives, bringing out some singular 
quality, and something by which one adds to the sum of 
life, shaping by some personal means the larger form of 
the world. 

No doubt to live " as the trees and animals do " is to 
be a Shaper : you have to get out of the way of a cow, 
and you think of a dandelion : but to rest contentedly in 
such service or power is to forget the intelligence, the 
personal heart ; it is to be content at one's lowest level. 
The thing which the French mock in the English mind 
seems to me very sane and healthy, the ceaseless weighing 
of goodness against cleverness : I still think a man must 
be one or the other to be worth a red cent : to be either 
mainly is to be both in a fair measure, and there is service 
and self-expression by either : to separate them is useful 
to speech and even to thought but, like all contraries and 
opposites in a world which is still one, they run together 
in the end : there is a great work of the brain in only 
keeping perfectly " good," and there is a great goodness, 
of life and of service, in putting out the fruits of the brain, 

Jwe 15, 1909. 

It is strange and saddening to find, when one sits to 
write with leisure and entire freedom of choice, that one 


has nothing whatever to put down, or nothing but the 
despairing statement of an utter emptiness. What sort of 
a thin life is it, what sort of a muddy brain, what a chilly 
soul, that can give in twelve waking hours no single 
thought or feeling that a man may write for his merely 
technical exercise. For a great part of our life we are 
merely animal or quite dead : immortality in another 
sphere does not seem so certainly a boon as would be 
immortality during our present life. It may be that a 
good working guide to conduct might be framed on this 
ideal of living to the fullest here and now : it is likely 
that the soul seeking admission among the bodiless 
immortals in another world would be elected at once on 
the strength of having kept itself from death in days here 



Tk letters which follow have been selected from a mh larger 
number which wm placed at my disposal by the recipients. They 
com the last twmty-mws of MacKtnnds life, Of ktters 

/ J V V 

written earlier I haw discovered, to my hep regret, only a few 
isolated examtks. mostly of minor importance ; the most inter- 

i * j *j i * 

esting passages from these have ken quoted in the Memoir. It is 
oho matter for regret tkt certain ofMacKenna's most frequent 
correspondents in later yearsnotably James Stephens have kept 
no letters. 

The letters are pointed as they were written, sane that I have 
silently corrected occasional slips of the pen or eccentricities of 
spelling, and that I have altered the highly individual punctuation 
so far but only so far as appeared to be necessary in the interests 
of clearness. MacKema's phonetic spelling of Gaelic words has 
been retained. Where for one reason or another it was necessary 
to omit part of a letter the omission is indicated by asterisks. 
Dates in square brackets are supplied by me ; many of them are 
only approximate. Tk majority of the original ktters are 
undated, and dates like " 2th or pth Feb. 1924 " and " Wed- 
nesday hh 0/? iffi " are not infrequent. 






LONDON, W. [1913]. 

MY DEAR A. E. I'm a long time now trying to make up 
my mind to write to you, or rather to wake up my pen 
to obey my long-made-up mind. I have left all my friends 
without a word ever since we left Ireland ; and only now 
I begin at haphazard to send here a card, there a brief 
scrawlfn, in the hope of forgiveness. In your case we 
were most accursedly sorry : had I had the ghost of a 
notion beforehand that you were coming over here, we 
would have early communicated ourselves to you in the 
hope that we might see you* We didn't know before it 
was too late, until you were all but here : then I had a 
very good reason not to write : 'twas that we had tried 
for tickets for the Albert Hall a and had been too late or 
too suspect or too something and I dreaded lest you 
should think I had communicated for my advantage, my 
need. I would have given a goodish little sum to hear 
you, though very probably in my ignorance of all the 
conditions I didn't approve of that meeting : a sick 
nationalism and a dreadful fear of proselytism and general 
dislike of English fingers in Irish pies, the cause to me of 
my disapproval, passive only : I mean that I wouldn't 
have said anything except to my own soul on the matter, 
wouldn't have dissuaded one soul from going. All which 
is quite unimportant : I know nobody that is less certain 

1 The reference is to a meeting in support of the Imh Transport Strike, 
at which " A, E." delivered a remarkable speech. 



of himself, his own mind, in all these things : I know only 
one thing, my own little thing, that I want Ireland Irish 
and Irish-speaking, and would prefer it also to be just, 
based on justice : therefore am platonically with 1&e 
workers, and yet unable to make up even my own poor 
little mind on any such deadly practical matters as those 
you were up to. 

I hear by the way that you have, very good-naturedly 
as would be your way, very gently, blasphemed my 
Nationality, saying that that Kind always flies out of 
Ireland : gently and kindly and playfully you did me a 
wrong : you have not acquired merit : your crown of 
glory will have one weak spot : you will have to keep your 
hand hovering about it lest your fellow-beatified would 
say now and then, "Why, brother, your crown has a 
crack in it," and you would have to say, cc Oh nothing, 
just a little injustice I did to poor MacKenna, the decent 
poor fool God help him." I left Ireland for Ireland's good, 
in some sense : not that my state matters much to Ireland, 
but that 'tis a simple fact that matter or not I couldn't 
get my health there, to serve or play at serving, but must, 
absolutely MUST, have a large change, to try and get the 
brain back to something like working order, the nerves 
in tune or tone again, the spirits bucked-up : and I 
haven't the means to go gallivanting about and keep up an 
Irish establishment, even tho' climatically and otherwise 
that would (which it wouldn't) serve the need. It is of 
course very cheap and easy to say that one's heart is in 
Ireland ; but that only proves that sometimes truth is 
cheap and easy, mercifully. I will be back in Ireland yet 
before I'm much more grizzled than I'm now. * * * * 

This is the end : you see there was nothing in me to say. 
I am not a man of the pen : I can say more in five minutes 
with my little tongue than with the longest fountain-pen 
in the world or the most ponderous typewriter : I hate 
writing and its tools : 'tis extraordinary how these para- 
phernalia freeze the flow of ideas and emotion : I suppose 

LETTERS 1913 139 

in a few centuries or so we will argue wirelessly over infinite 
spaces and publish our thoughts to all nations by some 
psychic channels, translation thrown in. Which foolish- 
ness reminds me I just read the Bhagavadgita through and 
copiously annotated it myself, on the top of the copious an- 
notations of one Tookaram Tatya. Norman once gave me 
the Bh. to read, and I couldn't : the soul has its times and 
seasons and will not be forced : that which is its beatitude 
becomes its bunkum, and bunkum is seen to be beatitude 
the next day but one. I don't know did I ripen or rot 
when I fell into the ring of this curious book : all the same 
I remain true to the old heresy : 'tis all in elementary 
Christianity, only in another metaphor : my change is 
that now I read and to some degree understand another 
language for the old thing : a useful process in other 
things beside the Way of the Soul. I suppose you know 
Rudolph Eucken : if not, and if your wars and threats of 
war leave you time, you really should consume a pipeful 
over him. 

I see I didn't succeed in ending this scrivin x after all : 
I sometimes think I will be prosecuted for keeping a dis- 
orderly house, my mind. Abandon Hope all ye that enter 
here : nothing clear or sweet is to be found, but only con- 
fusion upon confusion piled : you pays your money and 
you takes your choice and heaven help you. If you knew 
the dignified sensible letter I meant to write you, you'd be 
grateful to me : my intentions were good. 

As I read " The City " 2 1 remembered how you read it, 
with what fervour and organ music : it reads in the cold 
print nobly also, a magnificent thing, not less for the beau- 
tiful human things in it than for the spiritual splendour. 
Long life to you : 


My wife, were she in the now, would want her kindest 
good luck to go to you. 

* Irish : " hltle screed." a A poem by " A. R " 



From "A. E." 



MY DEAR STEPHEN MACKENNA, My halo is indeed 
cracked cracked along and across, but not because of the 
sin you impute. I may have uttered a wail that all my 
friends were in Paris or London or Berlin or New York ; 
but Fin sure I never blamed any of them whom Destiny 
took by the scruff of the neck and marched off with them, 
as one of James Stephens 3 policemen would take one of 
Larkin's men to Mountjoy : " There is no armour against 
Fate." James Stephens I may indeed gird at because he 
went with no knuckles at the back of his neck compelling 
him ; but not, believe me, any person who leaves of 
necessity because the purse is lean or the health has flown. 
You did not say how you are. Is not this unkind ? Is 
not this a crack in your halo that you suppose your friends 
don't care whether you are getting better or not ? You 
will have no advantage over me in Paradise * * * * I 
am glad you find the Gita more readable. Of course it is 
in its essentials one with the Gospel of John, but it was six 
hundred years earlier. I think you would like the heroic 
literature of India better than its religious literature. The 
Gita is an episode in the long narrative of the Mahab- 
harata. If you read the last two books of the Mahabharata 
I think you will agree with me that there is no nobler epic 
poetry in the world. Edwin Arnold, a mediocre poet, 
translated them in his Indian Idylls, and even through his 
facile verse one sees the noble original, as the beauty of 
Cophetua's Queen shone through her tattered garments. 

Ireland is a new country since you left. The land is 
shaking with the tramp of volunteers. Labour is drilling. 
The Hibernians are drilling, so are the Sinn Feiners. The 
Ulster men are also at it still. Ireland seems to have for- 

LETTERS 1913 141 

gotten it had any brains, but places all its confidence in 
its muscles. I am all for other methods ; but all my 
friends are so enthusiastic that I can only look on and 
hope that the Lord means something good for this unfor- 
tunate country out of it. Dublin is split up into Labour 
and Capital, and one goes about these days with a burden 
on the heart all the time. You would feel it if you were 
here, and in a way I am glad you are not, for you would 
worry over it all until you made yourself ill. It is a new 
Ireland shaping itself rapidly before our eyes, like a 
country re-forming itself in an earthquake where old hills 
are rent in twain and fissures open in the long established 
plains and there will be more fissures and cracks to no 
end before we get the new human formation. I once, 
about twenty years ago, had a series of visions about the 
future of Ireland. I saw a figure descending from heaven 
and standing on the earth, and at that moment a mother 
held a child in her lap. Then I saw the old Queen 
Victoria toppling from her throne, and other things then 
a gigantic figure stalked across Ireland beating a drum 
and. there were flights and alarms and smoke and burn- 
ings ; then after a silence the mountains flung up their 
rays as Brigid saw in her vision. I think the figure is 
beginning to beat the drum, and I am in hopes the moun- 
tains will fling up their rays to heaven when it is all over. 
I wonder will I see the avatar when he begins his labour 
of freeing Ireland. I would know him if I did see him, 
because the face of the vision impressed me so much that 
I was able to draw it. The drilling put me in mind of 
these twenty-year-old visions. But I am horribly sad at 
heart over Ireland just now. 

Thanks for the good words about my verse. I would 
rather have the good word of a few folk like you than 
mighty columns in the papers. I am only a John the 
Baptist before the true spiritual poet comes to Ireland. 
The old prophecies of spirituality in legend and faery tale 
require some greater fulfilment than Ireland has yet given. 


Our story began with epics and tales of the gods, and it 
ought to end in a blaze of intellectual and spiritual light to 
make our last days worthy of our half divine beginnings. 
Well, I was glad to get your note and I hope you arc 
coming to yourself again, and that you will be back in 
Ireland not for the cracking of skulls but for the later 
spring of the spirit. 
With kind regards to Mrs. MacKenna, 

Yours ever, 

A. E. 



SUSSEX, ENGLAND [December 1914]. 
MY DEAR TOM BODKIN, My grief that I am little in 
touch with you : perhaps I'd write more often if you didn't 
change your address quite so much. 3 This is just a 
Christmas word, though I loathe Christmas and all 
Christmessiness. My lady friend, it is true, went out, and 
I at her heels, to buy you a Christmas card ; but neither 
Brighton nor Hove contained any one, even at three pence 
itself, that we could honestly declare worthy of you, so we 
let it go : we didn't think you would want a robin sur- 
rounded by tulips in a network of lace nest, or an old lady 
knitting, with a movable grandson and granddaughter 
poking out roguish curly heads on either side of her 
abbatial chair ? If you would like either, however, don't 
hesitate to wire me : I could get 'em at once. There is 
also a John Bull with a hat, and in the hat the flags of 
all the Allied Nations, and Herself serving a great plum 
pudding, the same flags stuck all over it : " very appro- 
priate to the moment and selling very well" sort of 
" useful Christmas present " I gather. We hesitated but 

1 MacKenna continually changed his address ; Bodkin never. 

LETTERS 1914 143 

didn't buy : this you could have also at once : we'd even 
go three of them as they are only a penny. 

J thought we were an intellectual and hightoned people, 
we of Hove, but really for I was not quite serious above 
I got a shock when I saw all this and nothing else. 
We did ask in a sort of blush Had they any old masters 
for, we thought, an old master always looks toney and 
saves the dire exercise of personal taste : but only one 
shop, and that not one of the big ones, had ever heard of 
Old Masters, and when we saw them they turned out to 
be indecent postal matter, hair-lifters from the Salons 
the nou oh Salong ! Very nou indeed and not raptur- 
ously lovely. We did indeed buy one or was it two of the 
nous, but we are keeping them for ourselves et pour cause. 

I read a communique from your house, or from one of 
them, about the war : in the Chronicle it was : are them 
your sentiments too ? I don't like the suggestion that it's 
either cowardice or German gold which keeps some of us 
back from swearing terribly in Flanders. It may be 
idiocy, hereditary idiocy, but taint any taint of tothers. 
Well, peace to all men of good will : I haven't the energy 
to fight with anyone, and I wish to God they'd clear up 
all the mess and say nothing about it, as they did with 
the precocious productions of the prodigy in Tristram 
Shandy. I'm heartbroken over the war that has enabled 
his Most Reverence and Eminence of Armagh to declare 
with undeniable truth that Ireland will always leap into 
the breach in loyal devotion to the British Empire. I 
read this in the Freeman and it gave me a heart-ache, even 
unto real tears coursing down my innocent nose. 

My son, I can no more : God make you good and 
happy, and may all good fortune rain down upon and 
soak into your house and household and all that is yours, 
and may all that you want be yours and nothing you 
don't want. All this very sincerely with true and grateful 




[No address], 
[Autumn 1915]. 

MY DEAR TOMBODKIN, We are back. I'm dotty in the 
doe-nut again. Forgive my English : I've just been in 
England. Therefore I want light reading. If you like 
come on Saturday. You know the kind of book. It 
must be light. It musn't be silly. Don't want any 
tragedies. Let it not be French. To hell with Art. No 
translations. Don't bring many. Let everything be just 
right. I'm sure you understand. 

Nothing about Ireland. Anything about parsons or 
priests is good. I don't mind a story about art or litera- 
ture. Don't let it be by the author of Elizabeth^ Garden. 
Have you any Snaith ? Snaith is an author. I've read 
his Wm. Jordan. Have you any Butler ? But I bar some- 
thing of his with " flesh " in the title. 

Yours ever, 

o* M.. & 




DUBLIN [January 1916?]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, I was glad to hear that you got 
the Porphyry : 1 you do not say whether you liked it or 
not : I like it myself, tho' here and there it will be 
touched up. 

I have had another bad relapse with a deadly pulse: 
for about a fortnight I was to be packed off coftte que 
coute to Battle Greek, Michigan, to which all neurasthenic 

1 MacKenna's translation of Porphyry's Life ofPtotinus, published along 
with the first JEnnead 

LETTERS 1915 145 

Ireland goes, with Horace Plunkett at the head regularly 
but they pushed the pulse up to something just tolerable, 
an4 so I am reprieved again. I do not feel ill, only 
languid and weak. I am however able to go on once 
more with my two hours or three every morning and so 
the work very slowly goes ahead, slowly but in my judg- 
ment very well as I have said, to much better results I 
think than the " Beauty Xmas-card ". 1 I hoped to have 
been able to give up the first Ennead by this Xmas but 
have been disappointed : a good spell and I might finish 
the revision in a month : I hope for that anyhow. 

As for the Lee- Warner question I don't know at all : 
I couldn't possibly have more than one other Ennead, the 
second I suppose, ready within the year now beginning, 
for if I have health enough I really must get to work on 
something to bring me money down : we are making a 
great deal of sacrifice, even over this wretchedly long piece 
of work I mean rather that my wife is and that sort of 
thing can't go on ; it becomes unendurable, a shame and 
a torture to me, all the more since herself takes it gaily. I 
cannot myself imagine anything more deadly, or deaden- 
ing, than the thought that one drags a bright wife down 
to a sordid sort of mutton-worry, watch-your-bus-fares 
existence. Of course we have a host of good friends here, 
many where-to-go's when I at least am well enough. 

I hope you and yours are well and as happy as the 
dismal times allow : myself I sicken at all the blood, the 
mowing down of the youth of Europe, the stop, dead, of 
all we have thought of as civilisation, the multiform, wide 
as the world almost, agony and desolation. Plotinus 
mocks at all such emotions if I weren't too lazy Pd 
transcribe a passage ad hoc, very fine as literature but 
dreadfully unreal to-day, at least to my lower sense and 
this tho' Plotinus had been a soldier and seen, ce qu'on 
appelle vu, on no small scale too, the horrors which his 

1 His translation of Plotinus' Treatise on Beauty (Ennead I. vi.), published 
separately as a ballon d'essai. 


" Sage "really our " Saint " tho' one daren't use the 
word declares a trivial ragged fringe on his beautiful 
inner peace. For my part I find this war, with all thajt it 
entails to the world and to my own poor little land, 
setting me blaspheming. I see men as trees walking 
soulless motion merely, and no purpose over it all per- 
haps beasts ravening would be better, nearer to my mind, 
and no thought ruling the rage even to some sound 
material end. I suppose in the light of history all this is 
absurd and then Plotinus would be right all comes out 
smiling at the end, and the fall of one civilisation is the 
beginning of another : if the Yellow Peril that once was 
a music-hall joke turned into a Yellow Actuality and all 
the world was yellow, there would be once more arts and 
religions and contempt for the ancient and passed thing 
with lyric celebration of the triumph of light at last. The 
world certainly renews itself, and always manages, with 
relatively brief periods of disaster and ugliness, to keep a 
sober average but at the moments of ugliness, it is no 
pretty thing, no cheerful sight, and we get a sharp re- 
minder (which our history is generally too dead in our 
minds to give us) that all our " truths " are merely dreams 
and that nothing is sure but birth and death, both sure 
but dark in their meaning. The God of the world is dis- 
covered to be an incalculable : we do not know what he 
is up to, or whether there is any care up there at all : 
o 8* OVK eiSae/J^, 1 says Aeschylus of the man that thinks 
this, that Gods do not deign to care for the good and ill 
doings of men : I'm afraid I'm otf/c evaefiys. Of course, 
by the way, so is Plotinus in this : his Supreme is too 
great and different to care : it is man that must care ; 
and on that Plotinus gets as stern a moral code as others 
get out of the God who is offended and appeased and 
always working at the wheel of the world. The Father's 
house has many mansions and still more approaches : 
all roads lead to its peace, and a good Plotinian would be 

1 ** But he is impious " (Agamemnon) 372). 

LETTERS 1916 147 

undistinguished in life and death from a good Xtian, 
except perhaps in being better. This is a long wildness 
I Ve indulged in I don't know why. 

All good wishes and many sincerest deepest thanks for 
your persistent interest in this odiously long-trailing 


Even yet I find Pm not done : I notice from a former 
letter of yours I just turned up that you are anxious about 
cadence. If it were not for two things, I could have 
printed a year ago : they are perfect clearness and ex- 
pressive cadence : perfect clearness to those, bien entendu, 
who will take the trouble to understand the terms and 
what the whole is about ; cadence that shall help to 
clearness, and that shall further be a satisfaction in itself. 
I am labouring more for cadence than in the famous 
Christmas Card : the Card itself is rewritten mainly for 
cadence 5 sake. I think the new cadence far better than the 
old ; others may like it less ; on that point I can say 
nothing except that I will, permanently, continuously, 
disagree with them. I like pebbles in my brooks and 
little bends in my roads and raggedy edges to my clouds, 
and I don't like Noah's Ark trees or wooden legs and 
regular spots on my cows. 

This my testament litteraire. 




MY DEAR CURTIS, I begin to fear you have Colahanised 
us meaning that your excommunication is not valid, not 
accepted. My wife says I behaved very badly : she says 
if I don't apologise on the ground of nervous irritability 
I will break up an old and valuable and delightful friend- 


ship. She says also that if I do what I am going to do I 
will add insult to injury and throw the whole of Rocke- 
feller UnLtd. on the slumbering flames. r 

Here's then despite the wife the whole truth : I was 
as she says nervously irritated : but for the reason that 

Enormously, incalculably admiring your gifts and 
honouring your conversation for its searching ideas and 
able and entertaining expression (so that I have fre- 
quently said that Boyd, Curtis and Seamuishin l were the 
three Giants of Dublin Talk), knowing and valuing the 
intimately for long years (my hair grown grey since that 
remote beginning), 

Yet we had met at least four times within seven days, 
and I am constitutionally and for ever incapable of 
meeting anyone (except my wife alone in all the world of 
people that ever was or will be) of meeting anyone outside 
of business or quite exceptional other conditions, of 
meeting anyone (and especially of meeting anyone of set 
purpose towards long and intimate talk) more than once 
or twice in the longest week that ever existed. There's no 
one whose friendship I would more miss and lament than 
I will yours but I'm afraid if a man has one leg and one 
eye and one wig and one hump and a large purple scab 
on one cheek and the hand of a long dead codfish, I fear 
that anyone who has him as a friend must accept these 
deficiencies and make the best of them. I'm also, plus 
these defects, constitutionally unable to hide them : my 
oneness of eye and leg and hump and my superfluities of 
facial colourishness hit anyone inevitably in the eye : I 
can't pretend to have two legs and no facial ulster as 
other men can, and so I can't possibly conceal my distaste 
for too much of the best heart and brain and charm in the 
world. Recognise yourself there and forgive me for 
being me, 

s. M. K. 
1 James Stephens. 

LETTERS 1917 149 




DUBLIN [? Autumn 1917]. 

DEAR MISS DRUGKER, Delightful to hear from you : 
and the article very welcome though the poor man that 
did it exhibited himself as most of them do, no more 
capable of noticing a philosophical book than the soldier- 
monkey of an Italian organ grinder. I hope if you do me 
the honour of looking into my book you will not stick at 
the first tractate as most people do, sticking in it : Plotinus 
was no yellow-journalist ; he puts uppermost the dreariest 
and least tempting of his wares : believe me there are 
mighty fine and succulent things as you go on : I'd skip 
the first tract [and] read " Evil ", " Happiness ", and the 
" Preller-Ritter " Extracts which combine as I fondly 
imagine passages of great beauty and moving power 
though these Preller-Ritter things have not received my 
derniere main. Your old lady at the library irritates me 
with her " best translation " she had read : there's no 
other : there's only the pretence of one other man, 
Taylor who " mar yeah " as we say (i.e. soi-disant) trans- 
lated a good many treatises not by any means all, but 
all vilely, neither English nor fidelity to the Greek nor 
understanding of the sequence of the thought. I will 
imitate the frankness of artists and say boldly " I am 
unique." There is one Plotinus and one MacKenna his 
fidus Achates and only nursing mother. 

We hope you are not being pelted from the air in your 
centrality ? We gathered the last raid was a terror ? but 
at this distance we often gather London things that were 
never there. I'm in trouble : my radiant wife is losing 
her health : she is ill at present : and away from me : 
not in a hospital but being nursed, or rather gardenised 
into health, at my ancient Aunts' : the doctors do not 
take the thing alarmingly, but it's dreary to see her losing 


that splendid go of hers and that glorious flash of urgent 
intelligence and quick emotion in the shining face. I 
suspect war food as the cause of the primal internal troutjje 3 
and war-grief as nerve- wracking her so that she does not 
cure as naturally as would seem natural. She really 
does grieve over the carnage, the hold-up of civilisation, 
the nasty silly passion of victory keeping the big men from 
lifting the finger that would save the world's young things 
from death and dismemberment. She's a public spirited 
old thing. Really a deep mind and a great heart. 

This is all about ourselves a " self and partner " 
scrawl. Disgraceful. But " such a man I am ". I have 
no ideas outside my own back-garden : some one counted 
(and printed the count) 97 I's in one speech of John 
Dillon's and argued that therefore he was not fit to lead 
a mighty people : I'm not fit, I see from this letter, to 
lead a puppy by a string. All good wishes and all thanks 
very much from my heart. 

s. M. K. 




DUBLIN, 26 January 1918. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Yes, we " crossed " and all but 
crossed again. I was going to write when yours arrived 
my purpose mainly to say that after three months or 
more of worklessness I am beginning again, and hope 
that the wretched health may still leave in my power the 
punctual keeping of my engagements. 

Unfortunately the little work I can do is necessary : the 
times are very hard and threaten worse ; I am positively 
afraid. Had I good health I could do the two main 
things easily, but I will never have good health again. 

I do not understand how I stand with the Medici 
people, whether I am to get something from the sales or 

LETTERS igi8 151 

not, but anyhow it would be mighty little or mighty slow : 
I was bitterly disappointed by the figures : I was not 
s^prking (or planning the work) for money but for 
" Plotinianism " those pitiful figures represent to me a 
tragic failure. 

I never had any intention or thought of translating the 
Bouillet notes and illustrations : it would be a service to 
Plotinian studies I think but not the best service for 
myself to set out upon. 

The second Vol. should be very good : there's only one 
really dull or futile tract, and that very short : there are 
sublimities : but it is dismal to me to see that I am now 
handling, revising, work done in the rough, most of it, 
10 or even 15 years ago done in Dublin, Berlin, Moscow, 
Odessa, Paris. Had I been able to devote myself entirely 
to my only real interest (of the writing order), had I been 
able to live in Plotinus, Plotinus would have been done 
10 years ago, and probably Proclus too by now. 

Curious this having a passion for a fine thing and no 
way to live it out rightly ! 

My wife is convalescent but still weak and thin. 
All good wishes, 





DUBLIN, February 1918. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, * * * All was completed in the 
rough (and some several times revised) years ago. It is 
only now a question of intensity of the clarifying and 
" beautifying " power ; but unfortunately this is the 
uncontrollable thing ; it requires all my energy, a quick- 
ness of mind and feeling amounting to almost what we 
call inspiration in the poets. And I can't bear to think 
of putting any Plotinus forth that is not quite as noble, as 


lucid, as generally readable as the best mind in me can 
under its best inspiration, produce. 

But the weekly doses of electricity seem to give me^ 
good deal of that energy, and if it were not for money 
worry and the hateful, crushing incubus of this War and 
world-wide horror, I feel that I could go ahead very well. 
It seems to me most disquieting that electricity should 
quicken the soul, and an outside horror deaden and blunt 
it but so it is, alas ! I can't think why you Magnates do 
not end the appalling business : surely we owe as much 
to our own world (its arts and its lives) as to the world of 
our sons ? I have myself a brother 1 in this war the only 
brother of 10 that I care a button about, but he is, I 
think, as dear to me as a son. (He is much younger than 
I.) He is the father of a young family in Australia he 
will probably die in the " Great Onset " for what ? He 
has written to me from the Front asking me to tell him why 
he left his profession, his wife, his intellectual and mystic 
life, his " kids ". The war magnetises the emotional, the 
best, but to their second and belated thought it does not 
justify itself. 

I think all Europe ten years hence will be stupefied at 
its own folly of 1914-191 ?. I look upon it as a drunken 
fit : the most hateful thing to my mind in all the category 
of individual vices, and a thing utterly fatal when it is 
an entire world that has fallen into it. The widespread, 
daily growing and wider-spreading anarchy (first mental 
and then practical) of the times, this seems to me far more 
grave an evil, a war-induced evil, than any that the war 
is piously believed to be crushing out. Another year of 
it, and you will have such an upheaval as will appal his- 
tory, and make the little differences between Hun and 
Hunter seem like the finger-to-the-nose of vulgar little boys. 

I hope you and your clan and concerns prosper. My 
wife sends kindest regards. 

1 Octavian MacKenna. 

LETTERS igig 153 


DUBLIN [April 1919]. 

MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Strange : when your envelope 
was given to me I had just flourished the signature to a 
letter to yourself, mostly twaddle about the state of the 
Universe, but telling you that Plots, is humming again, 
my wife (with whom Plots, never suspected his relation- 
ship) being at last on the sure path to recovery I mean 
a good deal less ghost-like, though still very tottery and 
un-vital. All going well, I added, I would soon be able 
to have the 2nd and third Ens. type-copied, there to stand 
the last magic-working touches. Now : Some months 
ago I got a most honouring letter from the Loeb people 
to much the effect of Dr. Page's letter to yourself. I 
wrote back truly : greatly flattered and the rest of it, 
but hadn't yet completed the work for you and could not, 
as yet, see my way to reform my ideas of translation ; 
was, however, willing to allow (subject to your permission) 
publication with any corrections they liked, provided they 
inserted very visibly an agreed formula stating that the 
original translator was not to be held responsible, to 
credit or discredit, for any phrases or interpretations 
differing from those of the Lee Warner edition. I got no 
reply to this. Probably it deserved none I'm not 
grieving over that. 

It is cordial to me a tonic that a man at once so dis- 
tinguished and personally so charming as Dr. Page 
should speak so delightfully of my work I must show his 
letter to my poor old ghost at Kingstown who will be 
cheered towards life by it, and I wish I had the energy or 
perhaps the idleness to copy it as a sort of pedigree for my 
posterity (collateral). But his conception of translation 
is poles apart from mine : what he calls artistry etc., I 
call simple veracity that is, on the assumption that 
veracity does not mean a kind of transliteration but means 


conveying the full of the author's meaning, emphasis, 
mood, Stimmung, etc. Of course I know that some 
translators working on some books Mackail's Specimens 
from the Anthology is an almost perfect example can 
produce at once truth to the spirit (with beauty) and 
nearly verbal exactitude ; but this is quite beyond my 
art. I still itch to rebuild my first volume ; but precisely 
in the contrary sense to Dr. Page's. After all, I have had 
for years all but the whole thing literally translated and 
wanting only a few touches to make it publishable by 
that ideal. But my labour, my agony, is precisely the 
contrary to " deliteralise " in the interests of the 
higher veracity, as I judge. 

I take it that once a student has gripped Plots, as a 
whole, the system, and become habituated to Plots.' queer 
uses of words and of sentence structure and paragraph 
structure, few authors are more easy to translate in that 
fashion called literal ; but I think no author that I have 
ever touched is one-eighth so difficult to carry over into 
another language. All existing translations or fragments 
in translation seem to me pitifully unjust, except for 
Dr. Caird's occasional extracts ; I don't think even the 
meaning is at any point conveyed (except to those that 
know the Greek) in any translation but Caird's and my 
own. (Mueller and Kiefer seem to me deficient as 
Bouillet, tho' in other ways. Yet they set out to be 
" literal ", and in the common acceptation are so). 

I so utterly differ (believe me, with very great diffidence 
and the greatest respect) from Dr. Page that even on a 
secondary point peculiarly however in his province I 
differ toto coelo. As thus : If I personally read Greek 
translation I'm always uneasy lest I'm reading the trans- 
lator's ideas, not his author's, getting the translator's 
palette effects, not those of the original : if I have the 
Greek text en vis a vis I am at ease ; I can colour up or 
down as the Greek indicates to my temperament that 
the translator has over- or under-coloured, raised or 

LETTERS igig 155 

lowered the tone. I think the Loeb people could give 
their translators a far wilder liberty than Mr. Debenham 
awght to be allowed to allow me. 

I read a good deal of Greek in Latin-Greek, French- 
Greek, German-Greek and English-Greek texts as a con- 
stant suggestion of tricks of the translation-craft, so I con- 
sider myself quite an authority on this point : my total 
testimony would be that nothing could serve the classics 
more than superbly free translations backed of course by 
the thoroughest knowledge accompanied by the strict 
text. The original supplies the corrective or the guar- 
antee ; the reader, / find, understands the depths of his 
Greek or Latin much better for the free rendering again, 
I think of a chaste freedom, a freedom based rigidly on 
a pre-servitude. 

I constantly find myself unable to read, unable to 
understand, translations which would appear to satisfy 
the accepted ideas of " literalness " : give me a free trans- 
lation by a man of first-rate knowledge, and I'm quite 
often amused to find that out of the freedom I can recon- 
struct the Greek original almost verbatim. In other 
words, a good free translation can I think be proven to be 
much nearer to the original than most literal translations: 
it is paradoxical, yet it is truer than people would think 
who have not tried it. I would add all this is from a 
long meditated and never written essay on translations 
from Greek that I think it can be shown that the literal 

(1) necessarily by their principle exclude from the 
translator's use vast and important or even essential 
territories of the English language, idioms and words 
alike, and 

(2) include hosts of words, idioms, and " attack " gener- 
ally, which are no longer English. 

So that " literal " English turns out to be (i) Liddell & 
Scott English or (2) a bastard English, a horrible mixture 
of Elizabethan, Jacobean, fairytale-ese, Biblicism and 


modern slang (not slang of word but, what is worse, of 
phrase or construction). 

Totally then : (i) I cannot myself re-write my transla- 
tion in the Loeb sense. (2) I am quite willing (and greatly 
honoured) that they use it, suiting it to their ideas ; but 
distinctly not as mine, but as their own modification or 
correction of mine (I have no vanity whatever on this 
point and don't in the least mind being " corrected " 
publicly : indeed Pm astonished and rather scandalised 
that I have not been so handled). (3) I can't see that the 
question rises unless they can wait another year or so 
until we are ready with the whole thing. 

I hope I have not been too long read me in chunks ; 
a sort of pill after each meal till all is in. 

Have you read Wells' God the Invisible King? I 
believe Wells hates Plots, (by name at least) but he's not 
far from him all the same. I found the book suggestive 
and in places up-building, " edifying." 

Cordial good wishes. 

S. M. K. 

P.S, I will without fail return the letters to-morrow or 
next day after revivifying my ghost with them. 




DUBLIN [? Autumn, 1919]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, I cannot possibly accept this 
cheque I have not been able to work. My wife got 
apparently all but well some 3 months after her operation 
a month ago even so nearly well that she began to 
** type " my MSS. suddenly got ill again, and is at 
present so ill that this very afternoon I thought she was 
dying in my arms. It will be a miracle if she lives thro 9 
the winter. I can't work. If she dies I will shut myself 

LETTERS igig 157 

up and finish my three volumes, wherever I can find a 
quiet nook England or Ireland, where I need see no one 
fcd can hear some music. You see what a state I'm in, 
rambling on like the village idiot. 

Many thanks, 

S. M. K. 




DUBLIN [? Winter, 1919-20]. 

MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, I had hoped by Christmas to 
send in the MS. for the second volume. I have it type- 
written complete but not ready : I could not publish 
it in its present state : it is still rough : I can't get it 
smooth. * * * * 

The strain of the last two years has been terrific : we 
have had seven of the first doctors in Dublin to examine 
and some three to treat my wife, and they combined and 
singly can neither say what's the disease nor do more than 
temporarily relieve the symptoms : it was given out by 
three doctors to all Dublin that she couldn't possibly live 
through October : she is still alive, and a week ago was 
even " walking " really stumbling with a stick about 
her room : two days ago we had a return of the mysterious 
swellings which in September ripened into horrible 
ulcers ; she is flat again, and I am again cold with 
anxiety. I know, or hear, that there are heroic men who 
settle hoti's business with their own or other people's 
lives in jeopardy, dead from the waist down, but hoti 
leaves me cold at these times or, to be more accurate, 
simply tortures me, shames me, fills me with self-disgust. 

I want to say also roughly (since I can't find the 
smooth for it) that you absolutely must immediately instruct 
your qui de droit that all monies to me are to be stopped : 
somewhere towards May a cheque would roll in else, and 


it musrlt I must know now that it won't : it is dangerous : 
I am too poor and too slovenly to be able to stand that 
sort of thing : I find and do not find it essentially djL- 
honourable, simply an ugly fact of nature or grey nature 
that if a man gave me 1,000,000,000 on condition that 
I would twiddle my little finger three times a day for a 
week, Fd take the money and honestly forget to twiddle 
the finger. 

Had the calamities not fallen on us I would, as far as I 
know, have finished the work but the calamities have 
undoubtedly deadened my sense of responsibility, or 
rather my power of acting out my constantly present and 
even urgent sense of responsibility. (Even now I cannot 
make my meaning clear, so as to clear myself as I see 
myself fundamentally clear) . 

Anyhow I must have it quite firmly fixed as a fact in 
my mind that there is no more money for Plotinus, and 
that immediately. At every possible moment I tinker 
with the typescript, and find it slowly getting better a 
second typing (to embody the improvements) ought to 
see things right before too long. If my wife dies I will 
bury myself in the work, the second volume and the third, 
which third ought (by the accident of its matter and the 
stage my MS. stands at) to be easier than the dry second. 

Cordial good wishes, 

S. M. K. 





MY DEAR TOM, You'll think me strange : what harm 
if I am or you do ? I want you to do if possible a thing 
for me, and if not, then for ever hold your peace. 

In this time of trial I can't settle my mind on things of 

LETTERS 1921 159 

the intellect : I must settle it or I'll unsettle it. I pine 
for music. I have a place wherein to make it, or its base 
feaitation, and no one a whist the wiser. 

But I've lent my concertina away where, and under 
conditions whereby, I can't immediately or for a month 
resume it. I have heard that your sister Norah has been 
at times possessed of a concertina, one of a most silvery 
sweet song. Could you discreetly discover (i) whether 
she still has it and (2) whether having it she would unhave 
it for a spell : i.e., not to hide my mind, whether she 
would lend it to me. I heard, it is true, that she had 
thoughts of selling it, not for her personal gain but for the 
Sinn Fein funds or the WAACKS or some such worthy pur- 
pose. If this is so, I implore you to breathe no word of 
my ghastly secret, this ill desire : if it isn't so, you will 
break the news gently to her, as gently as you'd break a 
suspected egg, and see which way the wind blows, and if 
ill then nip it at the thin edge of the wedge instanter. 

Above all you're not to laugh at me though I am 
laughable for in truth Pm also very wretched : the 
news here is neither good nor bad, but the suspense is 
awful : I'm amazed myself that I can think of concer- 
tinas ; the mischief is I can think of nothing else, apply to 
nothing but tune. 

Kindest regards, 




DUBLIN, March 1921. 

MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, * * * * To-day is a bad 
day : 6 boys hanged : the great, strict, un-rebelly judicial 
lights all say, I'm told, in their privacy that only one of 
those could conceivably have been death-sentenced or at 


all sentenced by the ordinary Civil Courts ; and that in 
the case of the one, civil judges would recommend reprieve 
since the evidence admitted doubt I imagine no one fa 
all England, not even the extremest of the little pro-Irish 
party, can understand with what a personal touch these 
things come to us : this morning my wife and a servant 
and a charwoman are all in tears and I sit shivering by 
the fire, scrawling this farrago but thinking deep down all 
the time of the tragedy of Ireland, mourning for the 
young lads. I suppose this is funny or horrible, immoral, 
to the outsider : " murderers " settles it : we know that 
in their hearts (assuming the very doubtful assertion that 
they were in that particular ambush and ignoring the 
undisputed fact that there were no casualties whatever 
there), we know that even if they did kill, there was no 
murder in their hearts, that, rightly or wrongly, they, all 
such men, think themselves soldiers, killing as a Belgian 
might kill a German, killing in a war of liberation. 

We know that all such think so, and thinking so are 
good men sacrificing themselves, answering a call of the 
spirit, of a possibly misguided spirit, " bamboozled by the 
Divine in them " as a man said to me in humorous allusion 
to my Plotinianism. 

Until the English understand this basic fact of the Irish 
psychology, they will understand less of Ireland than of 
India or China, and, however they may finally crush us 
down in slime and blood, they will never hold us down : 
I am grey and sad waiting for the freedom of Ireland, but 
the little boys and girls in the street are flaming with the 
same old spirit their very play tells it and generation 
after generation will rise as generation after generation has 
risen, striving for the same thing. 

Very cordially, 

s. M. K. 

LETTERS 1921 l6l 



DUBLIN [l92l]. 
MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, * * * * The fact of the 

matter is (as I meant to explain and I thought I did ex- 
plain) that I had allowed myself to use you as a safe- 
deposit. Raids by night and day are the order of the 
night and day : the most incredible people are raided 
high Government Officials, quiet Unionist old ladies : it 
is often a matter of the most irresponsible or purely mali- 
cious denunciation, as in the case of the Master of the 
Rolls the other night. The forces of the Crown are some- 
times highly polished gentlemen and sometimes the 
savagest kind of uncontrolled brutes : they tear up Irish 
everywhere, and I am full of Irish books and MSS. If I 
were denounced or suspected there would be little left of 
my papers. I fear for Plotinus, who would probably pass 
to their eyes as a low Gael plotting crime in a fantastic 

I am surprised and rather humiliated at not having 
yet been raided and sacked. I have never concealed my 
mania for either the Irish language or Irish freedom ; the 
fact that I'm entirely out of all touch with active politics 
would not enter into the matter : I'd have to prove that, 
afterwards. And by the way, tho' it is as true as any 
truth and all truth, I'd have difficulty, I couldn't prove it. 
I couldn't cite men who are inside to give me a testi- 
monial of outsideness, incidentally incriminating them- 
selves : all that could happen would be that of course the 
authorities couldn't prove the contrary. But the ruin 
would have been wrought. 

It maddens me to think that all this horror could have 
been averted by un bon mouvement at the middle of the 
war or on the Armistice or even much later, on the Sinn 
Fein election victory the touch of justice, or simple 


recognition of fact, giving a thoroughly good measure of 

I am ashamed of expressing shame for my delays : Jb 
can only hope that domestic and national matters will 
leave me peace enough for reasonably consecutive and 
speedy efficiency. 

My wife slowly gets strength no sign whatever of 
relapse ; if she goes on as well till the turn of the year, 
we will cease to worry. 

Kindest regards and all good wishes chez vous, 

S. M. K. 


DUBLIN, [Monday 1921 or 1922], 

MY DEAR STEPHEN MACKENNA, I make haste to acknow- 
ledge the gift of the second volume of your translation of 
Plotinus which came this morning. I have not yet done 
more than steal the time from my writing of Homestead 
leaders to read a few pages ; and I find there the same 
pure and cold intellectual distinction as I knew in the 
first volume. You are one of the few people who can 
write with an austere dignity appropriate to the subject, 
and I read it with the refreshment of one who drinks cold 
water after being poisoned with rich and corrupting 
liquors. It is a pleasant thing to think of, that an Irish- 
man in the midst of all the turmoil which distracts our 
country has the spiritual energy to persist at such an in- 
tellectual labour* I have not half your power of concen- 
tration, and a book I began two years ago is not half com- 
pleted because I allowed myself to get involved in matters 
which in the heart of me I feel were not proper for me to 
deal with. But this dereliction of my own duty, this 
wandering of mine from the guidance of my own star, 
makes me respect you, who have persisted in your proper 


work, still more. I say to myself " It was done for the 
beloved Motherland, this errantry of mine," but I know 
*fe my heart that the service I gave was an easier and 
lower service than doing the best and highest it was in 
me to do. The translation of a thinker like Plotinus may 
not make one's name be shouted in the streets ; but your 
work may make some who read it of nobler mind and 
utterance, and they may bring a reflected light of your 
work to others who perhaps could not benefit by a direct 
study and whose ideas must be diluted if they are to 
digest them. I owe whatever dignity of mind I possess 
to a study of Plato and the sacred books of the world, and 
I feel your translation may kindle others as I was kindled 
when a boy coming on the Banquet and other dialogues. 
I will read it closely, this translation, as it must be read, 
and I thank you for your kind remembrance of the poet 
who strayed into politics. 

Yours sincerely, 

A. E. 

To "A.E." 



[1921 or 1922]. 

MY DEAR RUSSELL, Your generous letter of to-day 
touches me deeply believe me or not, all but to tears ; 
actually to emotional chills down the spine and the ting- 
ling of my top-knot. I take it as a passport into high 
places : God knows I never had, never understood how 
anyone could have, any desire for reputation, I mean in 
the sense of fame : but I have wanted to do my hackwork 
with just " dignity," " austerity,' 5 a certain degree of 
nobility : and these are the things you find : a great joy 
to me. Of course I don't know whether I said it to you 
that second voL is (relatively, and for the greatest but 


not only part) poor stuff : the first, third, and fourth are 
the finest Plotinus, than whom there is little finer In the 
world. As I grind at the revision of the third I trembkr 
sometimes, often ; grandeurs ; lovelinesses ; humanities ; 
raptures ; great doors flung open suddenly but we are 
hurried by with scarcely time to look ; that is always to 
me the test of a spiritual value, that we scarcely dare to 
look at the thing, down the vistas, into the Infinities. , . . 

But this is not what I meant to write about at all : I 
set out to say only that Pm very sorry you don't appear 
to understand the greatness of your own life and the 
profound and future-looking value of your own service. 
I have quarrel enough with you ; all the Papist Celt in 
me shudders at your failure (as I see things) to grasp 
the spiritual splendours and values of our befogged old 
Catholic Church the artist in me, too, the historian, 
several other people and potencies in me are shocked and 
chilled. I look upon all that as a most deplorable and 
inexplicable failure this I say for honesty's sake which is 
a jewel ; for conscience' sake : 

but : as a preface to the future truth that I have always 
thought of you, always in all these long years, as one of 
the noble expressions of the divine mind (the Supreme 
Intelligence of Plotinus and of course of all the meta- 
physically informed mystics) ; and further that to me it 
seems, has always but especially of late seemed, that no 
little part of that greatness is precisely in your devoted and 
inspiring service in what foolish separatists call the petty 
side of things. I remember once reading a parody of 
Ruskin in which he was made to say, " But a sewer is an 
entirely holy thing/' I always thought parody, there, had 
spoken wisdom : without any practical taste or skill 
myself, I always look with admiration, almost reverence, 
on the man that has it and uses it even for his own sake 
the big business man, even the despised shopkeeper, the 
middle-man (though of course I don't think that he is 
eternal : only that in the present state of things even the 

LETTERS 1921 165 

middleman who keeps things humming seems to be 
respectable, valuable, a worker, a server) : 

but when all this practical power is consecrated, then 
my reverence is unbounded. Yours has always been so, 
and if there were only the dairies and the unfailing brave 
word for this little people of ours, why Fd humble myself 
to grovelling. But, again, when all is conveyed in the 
noble terms of a spiritual passion (to say nothing of purely 
technical or artistic power), when we are taught to make 
butter and to defend our national soul and potentiality in 
the name of the Soul and the powers behind it towards 
the working out of a sublime will behind all the shows 
why, my dear man, I can only think again in terms of 
Plotinus of men that are " not merely without fault but 
are Gods." I don't quite deify you yet, you know : I 
think you have a spot or so : but a few millions of aeons 
in a good hot Babylonian hell will burn those out, and 
then ah, then . . . ! I cannot think with you that your 
work has been of the easier order, unless in the sense that 
the noble way is easiest to the noble : I am certain that 
in your books, in your articles, in your organising and 
regulating and correcting, there has been the highest 
spiritual value ; and that Ireland, if there be such a 
thing, will rise up on the Last Day, if such a thing there 
be, to call you blessed. * * * * 

No need to write : this is my homage : it never 
occurred to me that you could think little of your service. 

Sincerely, ^ ^ ^ 



Christmas Eve [1921]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, It is a matter of simple honour 
to tell you what may not to you seem honourable, that 


for the past week and for the immediate future Plotinus 
is suspended : that would not matter, " a Christmas 
holiday/' but that unfortunately there are signs that f 
may not be able to resume the work for some little time 
and possibly may not at all. I told you I was not in the 
remotest degree in touch with national work : I have to 
be, from the moment of the signing of the London pro- 
posals. It is to me like the call to the English to break off 
their work and their loves and all their life to fight in 
France. To explain adequately would be long and use- 
less. In a word, I never concealed from living soul my 
intense desire of the utter freedom of Ireland I felt like 
a Pole to Russia, etc. and I encouraged cordially every 
form of effort towards it ; this solely, for the past ten 
years, in speaking and in an occasional article and for 
the past hot time not even that, since my wife was dying 
and I ill. At the same time I never concealed from the 
extreme party of my choice (tho s sometimes from the 
moderates) that I would be for accepting some adequate 
form of self-government that I then thought might be 
known as Dominion Home Rule. Now that they bring us 
home Dominion Home Rule, I could no more be a party, 
I find, to accepting it than you could to accepting internal 
self-government, the fullest, within and under the name 
of the German Empire. " Adherence to and membership 
of . . .", allegiance to K. George and his heirs all that is 
merging us by our consent for ever, I, no politician, did 
not understand that D. H. R. meant anything so funereally 
final as that. It was a grave error, a most blameable 
ignorance. Most of the men and women of the Ddil who 
are accepting the Proposals are saying that they are not 
morally bound by them and are intending only to use 
them : I and a great many others, thank God, cannot 
descend to that. I have been invited to co-operate with 
the honest Repudiation Party ; I cannot refuse the call 
cannot in conscience. If we secure Repudiation, we will 
all have marked ourselves for the most drastic treatment 

LETTERS igsi 167 

by the English Govt. or army here : if we fail, we will 
have to carry on the struggle to upset a British Dail by 
k *what means I do not know. But even if by means which 
do not cause our arrest by the Dail, yet the work will be 
severe. Plotinus will be interrupted. I will write later 
when I see the future more clearly : for the moment I 
merely expose, as in honour bound, the situation which 
obliges me to break our contract, the one-sided contract 
in which you have had all the loss and I all the gain. 
Should I be long out of the Plotinus field I will be able to 
make arrangements to repay that last most unhappy 
advance ; this certainly ; my wife, in whose interest 
mainly I took it, will be able to do that : for what pre- 
ceded it, I can only hope that slowly the returns of the 
2 vols. will leave you finally not at any great loss. 

Disaster has weighed heavy over this whole thing, this 
Plotinus business but I could not know when I agreed 
with you that to an increasingly scrupulous literary sense, 
and desire of the finest scholarly accuracy within my 
extremest power, revision would really mean triple and 
quadruple re-writing and often more even than that. 
Nor could I predict my own nerve-failure, the post- 
operation neurasthenia rooted in the constitution, and the 
terrible years of my wife's lingering malady now all past 
in her case. If you can understand the call of my con- 
science in such a matter I am intensely relieved : I re- 
member writing to you that I could never take an oath of 
allegiance much less can I side with my country's doing 
so. If you can't get into our skulls to see, why all I can 
do is to say from the depths of my heart that the princeliest 
soul I ever knew, one of the very noblest characters I 
could imagine, was known as an Englishman E. R. D. 

My kindest regards and warmest thanks, 

S. M. K. 

I know Mrs. Debenham in all her manifest kindliness 
could not endure me : you must tell her, if you speak of 
the matter to her, that if I was jauntily and cockily Irish 


as I knew I was the excuse is simple boorishness inborn 
in me 'tis a valid excuse really, tho' it doesn't look so 
plus a heart perpetually sick over the failure and degrada-"" 
tion of my country which I have loved as a religion. 

I would like to add that the substance of this was written 
when (a fortnight before the event) I learned privately that 
the delegates to London had arranged a plot to rush the 
Ddil Cabinet into the allegiance position what I then 
wrote to you I destroyed on reflecting that I could not be 
sure that they would actually carry out what I knew they 
had planned, and that I'd appear to be wasting your 
attention on futile heroics if they repented or found the 
English Cabinet too dour for even their own new tastes. 

(It is not, by the way, suggested that they acted from 
base motives, tho' their means certainly were base 
trickery, deceit, machinerigging, a score of such arts. It 
is entirely believed that the motives were good Collins 
war-weary and weary of bloodshed on one side and the 
other, and Griffith longing to see Ireland applying to her 
good the manifold schemes his admirable brain has been 
for 10 ot 15 years inventing and preaching in his various 



[beginning of January, 1922]. 

DEAR. MR. DEBENHAM, Forgive me beginning with the 
abstract side of things : Firstly, that letter * whose 
applicability to the present situation astonishes me was 
written a year and a quarter ago : things done and 
suffered during the year and more between its writing 
and the Truce did not create in this country any love for 
1 An earlier letter from MacKcnna to Debenham. 


England. No Englishman will ever understand how that 
year and more intensified hate or made hate of what 
was mainly little more than a national sense of difference. 
A settlement very possible a year and a quarter ago has 
to my mind become quite impossible now. 

But secondly : Despite an occasional phrase (not mis- 
leading in the context, I think) it is made perfectly clear 
that the entire stress in my mind was on the calming and 
healing power of a measure forced upon us : I have under- 
lined in the copy of my letter two or three passages which 
show clearly that this was in my mind and this only : 
" Sinn Fein, even moderate S. F., will never negotiate " 
(p. i) ; " The day S. F. begins to negotiate it crumbles at 
once ; it loses the confidence of its own etc." (p. 3.) 

S. F. did begin, after a year and more, to negotiate, and 
we have the cc crumble." (I think it probable that the 
Bail will ratify the treaty but dishonestly ; there is 
scarcely one member of the ratifying party that dares to 
say he ratifies in the intent of abiding by it : even Wm. 
O'Brien, the ex-Redmondite M.P., urging ratification 
urges it as a weapon, as a half-way house, a means by 
which we become strong to cast [ourselves] out entirely 
from the British Empire.) 

We have the crumble : I, for example, " crumble 
away " ; why ? because Sinn Fein has not merely 
accepted Dominion Home Rule as a thing forced upon it 
which it is not able to resist in which I would agree with 
it but has (as far as proposals and signatures of delegates 
go) declared Ireland to hold " status within the British 
Empire/' " adherence to and membership of the British 
Empire." Immediately on reading the Griffith-Lloyd 
George proposals I wrote to the two National papers of 
Dublin a letter which both suppressed, saying that if this 
were forced upon us by English might, as Black and Tans, 
martial law etc. were, we might tacitly use it ; but that 
its acceptance in the name of Sinn Fein (which is in the 
name of Ireland) was a national abdication " unthink- 


able " to those who still cared for the freedom of Ireland. 
Of course I have been told that this is quibbling, hair- 
splitting etc. I'm utterly unable to see that : to me it if 
as vital as it is simple and self-evident. It is all the differ- 
ence between accepting a personal wrong which one can't 
redress and approving, identifying oneself with, a wrong 
spreading widely in this case affecting a whole possible 
nation. Under a forced scheme we would still be morally 
free : consenting to the scheme, merging ourselves (by 
the approved oath of members of the new parliament) 
into the British Empire, we have abdicated all right to 
future action, to private hope of a future nationhood. 
cc Any form of constitution or formula of oath which left 
us without that stain might be accepted on its merits, this 
never " (the quotation is from a later letter of mine which 
both the National papers published on St. Stephen's Day, 
when they saw that there was at the very least a large 
minority not willing either honestly to sign away Ireland's 
right or to perjure themselves and their nation for the sake 
of more surely breaking away in the near future). 

There is just one point, in my doctrine, in which I 
myself see myself open to the charge of " hairsplitting 
&c." tho' of course something in my mind, something 
not definitely formulated, obliges me still to hold it : it is 
this : I think that in practice if a scheme of Dominion 
Home Rule had been forced upon us (from above, regard- 
less of our formal consent, as a purely English measure 
for the Government of Ireland), I think that in practice 
all would have worked out to long-lasting peace and, in a 
limited sense, amity. To my mind a terrible mistake has 
been made on both sides : our men should never have 
signed consentment to " adherence to and membership 
of . . ." and the like ; and yours should never have in- 
sisted upon it. It has been publicly said that LI. George 
threatened " immediate and terrible war " upon Ireland 
if we didn't accept this : in that threat, and in the value 
set by the English negotiators upon the words, there 

LETTERS 1922 171 

appears at once the fact that the mere form is of vast 
significance : the English insist on our crawling into (or 
declaring our native membership of) the British Empire : 
they insist on our abdication of our hereditary affirmation 
of non-membership. We therefore must resist : but why 
need they have insisted ? It did not pass the wit of man 
to devise a formula of constitution which would leave the 
whole bitter question in abeyance. No one, or few, very 
few, expected the English to announce withdrawal of all 
claim over us ; but as few believed when the negotiations 
began that the English would insist on our formal pledged 
and perpetual adherence to and membership of. Anyone 
that knows the depth of Irish feeling knows that no per- 
manent (or even any more than momentary) pacification 
is possible on such terms : a quarrel is best made up by 
simply ignoring the detail, even the principle, of the first 
dispute : it is not made up by John saying to Mark, " I 
forgive you and grant you these and those boons on your 
admitting my superiority," or even by Mark saying to 
John, " I recognise your superiority for the sake of the 
boons you offer and (sotto voce) those boons will 
strengthen me for the day when I can show you what I 
really think of you." 

Once more the dominant point those who are for 
ratifying are (a) those who never wanted the freedom of 
Ireland or were opposed to it (Indifferents, Unionists 
&c.), (b) those who ratify, immorally, as an anti-English 
and anti-British " step forward." There is no (c) absol- 
utely no signs yet of a party that did want the freedom of 
Ireland and that accepts this treaty as giving it. One of 
the Bishops did show a " c " tendency in one pronounce- 
ment, and followed it immediately (in a day or two) with 
second thoughts that put him slightly disguised among the 
" b's " : " the best we can hope for strengthen the 
national resources expanding freedom &c. &c." Of 
course there may be, must be, some true " c's " people 
converted to Britonism by the Free State proposals but 


they have not yet emerged ; they are not met, or read ; 
not at all. 

Now can anyone think this is reconciliation ? Is it not 
honorable to protest ? Is it not absolutely compulsory on 
the conscience of anyone who, for a life-time, has held the 
theory I have held openly ? It happens that there is need, 
for the present at least, of all who can serve in any way to 
enforce the expression of honesty and nationality : the 
issue we can only leave to fate, but we must do the work 
and take the risk. 

I do not see the hopelessness of the agitation : anyone, 
I myself, would have pronounced Sinn Fein a hopeless 
agitation ten years ago or less : I have learned that noth- 
ing that has an honest basis is hopeless : it wanted a very 
little difference in the position of the country, or in the 
personality of our Irish negotiators, to secure us peace 
without that unnecessary trailing of the coat in the clauses 
declaring the status of Canada and adherence to &c. Some 
of the most authoritative organs of the English press were 
already preaching abandonment of Ireland as an insol- 
uble problem Garvin was strong on leaving Ireland 
(extra-Ulster Ireland) " to stew in its own juice." It is 
not hopeless, though certainly difficult now, to create a 
situation in which we negotiate for peace and friendship 
(or at least friendly relations) on the distinct under- 
standing that we be neither anti-British nor actually con- 
fessedly British. Probably if Lord Morley, younger, had 
been of the negotiators, Garvin, one or two others we 
could think of, had happened to be Cabinet Ministers, 
some such abeyance on the English side with tacit accept- 
ance on the Irish side would have been to-day's fact. That 
or a similar situation may be yet produced. 

Now I come to the purely personal side. Had I died, 
of illness, as I nearly did, after the publication of the first 
vol., had I been killed by stray bullets in Easter week or, 
like many, by irresponsible shooting on either side during 
the months of the Black and Tan regime we'd have to 

LETTERS 1922 173 

bow to fate. If I feel now, as I do, that I'm morally 
obliged to serve in this cause, I'm simply in the position 
of nearly all the men of Europe called by their country's 
need in the long war to suspend all their other obligations 
they by force majeure no doubt, but a force majeure 
whose sanction was in their sense of duty to their country. 
It is true of course that (for the present at least) there is no 
force majeure over me in this matter : but, once con- 
vinced in conscience of a duty, is it according to conscience 
to wait for that force m. ? (I do not see for a moment 
that my work on Plotinus is any service to Ireland, any 
at all.) 

There remains the financial side. Here I feel horribly 
ashamed and was for a while horribly in doubt I mean I 
suffered pain of doubt, very acute. Now I still feel the 
pain, but the doubt only intermittently. Without know- 
ing the exact figures I took counsel on the principle 
involved. The advice I received coincided with my own 
feeling, that the situation was very awkward but that, 
admitting the country's need and call, the country's need 
and call was the dominant. 

I will take further counsel : I'm not so committed that 
I could not (in view of my age and health and practical 
impotency if things get really hot), not so committed that 
I could not withdraw though on the other hand if the 
Treaty Proposals are repudiated I may be already marked 
for jail or for other punishment. If the Treaty is ratified, 
the agitation will be literary and oratorical, and I need 
only take a limited part in it something I must do even 
then, but of course it is at the start only that any one man 
would be very important unless (which God forbid) it 
becomes a real civil war I couldn't and wouldn't fight 
in such a horror (could not fight for any cause), but I'd 
again be marked more or less, and only chance would 
decide what I'd suffer. Assuming that " limited part," 
I'd still go on with Plotinus I was working at it yesterday 
only there'd be more delay than I like or had antici- 


pated. Supposing the worst happened and the work was 
not pursued I would owe you 900 plus its interest over 
the time, or, assuming some further sales, 900. It is a' 
big sum, but my wife would certainly charge herself with 
it and if she lives long enough would pay it all off in time 
would certainly pay annual instalments reducing it. 
She would do this for my honour's sake and because the 
greater part of what I received was taken solely for her 
sake and need, in her sickness. I am heir to a small 
property which would enable me if I lived (but could not 
for any reason finish the work) to pay all off in three or 
four years from the year of receiving the property. Here 
I feel that I am " bald and unsympathetic " I found 
nothing such in the business part of your letter : how 
could I ? it is certain that I ought never to have entered 
into any such place of tightness ; but, as I have said, 
when I began on the mischievous course I counted on 
fairly efficient physical conditions and had no doubt what- 
ever that four volumes could appear in four years : I 
foresaw neither serious illness nor the nervous literary 
scruple amounting to inhibition. 

I will reconsider this whole financial side as well as 
the exact limit of my necessary participation in the prac- 
tical work of the new Irish problem and will write again 
ad hoc. I do not even re-read what I have written : I'm 
tired out by it : I leave it in the hope that whatever mis- 
leading flow of phrasing there be in it you will see the 
general point of view and, though not able to share that 
point of view, at least be able to recognise that I act on a 
personal compulsion from within. 

All good wishes and lifelong thanks, 

S. M. 1C* 

I don't recall whether I made quite clear that, while I 
give full service for the urgent moment, I have no ambition 
or power of being a leader, but on the contrary taking 
full risks at the necessary times merely fill a gap, glad to 
retire, if may be, into utter silence, complete political 

LETTERS 1922 175 

inactivity, and Plotinus, as more competent workers come 
forward. If I see that the country is determined to 
Britonise, I'll probably go for good and all to the South 
of France and never see England or Ireland again : poli- 
tically I feel " broken-hearted " in the exaggerated 
phrase nearest to the truth that the country should even 
dally with voluntary, declared, abdication of its ancient 
claim. Again, as a Pole to Russia possibly associating 
with Russia, accepting or bowing to Russian rule, but 
utterly unable to merge. 



[beginning of January 1922]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, I'm wondering whether my huge 
letter of this morning made clear one all important 
matter : that Pm not hankering after any but the studious 
life, the Plotinus work. I felt in honour bound to tell you 
that I felt in conscience bound to answer the immediate 
call for service, and therefore run a risk and am occupied 
as otherwise I should not be. If the country accepts the 
Proposals I shall probably leave it for ever and Plotinize. 
If it repudiates, my present action will have been merely 
a slight addition to my bad name when in one way or 
another the troubles break out again : only a slight addi- 
tion, because we shall all be passed through the sieve, and 
as I have always indicated I could under no circumstances 
take an oath of allegiance to England : I would be caught 
automatically by that* 

The whole thing then is that I'm unable in conscience 
to refrain for the immediate present : the rest lies with the 
fates, with whatever God guides such things : my will 
towards Plotinus is as it ever was ; only, this temporary 


call is for the moment paramount, like a fit of illness. My 
service is purely literary but there are times when the 
pen attracts the sword or invites the bullet in the barrack"* 
yard it may very well prove, and very soon, that (Repu- 
diation or Ratification) I have, in the first shock of the 
crisis, exaggerated the reaction of the crisis upon my own 
life and work. I was bound to tell you of my at least 
temporary emergence from the study. 

Again all good wishes 

S. M. K. 



[January Qth, 1922], 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Just a word to say that the Ddil 
vote releases me from what I felt a most imperative call. 
I will not take part in anything that approaches to " civil 
war " I bow, with shame and grief, to the country's 
decision. Of course this decision may yet be altered by 
a general election but the fighting of that will be for 
politicians, not for antiquated Grecians. My call was for 
a moment when every little power might count most 
vitally : there will be no such urgency, such need of 
immediate full-strength action, as in the case of the Bail 

I would have been happier as things have turned out 
had I simply taken my necessary action and said nothing 
to you : you would, as things have developed, never have 
known of my two or three weeks' truancy and risk. But I 
could not leave you in such ignorance, since you had 
always my assurance that I was not in what is called 
" politics " to me not " politics " but something far 
higher and since, in the event of repudiation, I would be 
in increased danger. 

LETTERS 1922 177 

I have not yet decided whether I shall leave the dis- 
honoured country but leaving or staying, Plotinus 
resumes himself to the full of my available energy. 
All my most cordial good wishes, 

s. M. K. 




DUBLIN [September 1922]. 

MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Your very deeply appreciated 
letter of kind enquiry reached me in the midst of alarms 
and perturbations. My wife ill again for the past two 
months : a consultation this week pronounces it a relapse 
into the old disorder : future not to be predicted, disease 
too obscure. A dreary prospect for the poor old lady, 
who thought till last May that she was completely cured. 

Just before she began to fall ill again I was going to 
write to you on Plotinus : she dissuaded me (of course 
honestly in intention) but whether actually honestly I 
doubt now. I had reached a stage at which I simply could 
do no more. I wanted to go over and see you and try to 
show you that I ought to give it up, and to plan with you 
how we might arrange for the rest to be done (with all 
the help I could give) by someone else, preferably Eric 
Dodds. She persuaded me to take a long rest, try again 
after that, and then, if I found I could not go ahead, then 
only to broach the matter with you. Only for the fact 
that I am financially bound I would take this release : 
the obligation to the Plotinus public is to give them the 
good stuff, the echt, and if I couldn't do that, to arrange 
for someone able to do it ; as things are, i.e., in view of 
the financial obligation, I'm for the present unable to 
judge what is right. I may get again such a period as I 
had had fairly recently, all going very fairly well if slowly : 



on the other hand the period of incapacity may go on : I 
have not dared to try yet lest I should fall into the 
agonised despair which itself keeps me back for longer than-" 
if I took a long rest. There are weeks during which I 
can't hold the thread of an argument in my head at all 
For the moment I ask only a suspension ; if my wife's 
illness doesn't reach the danger point again, I will try- 
again in a little while. 

I'm heartbroken over the country. I could never 
accept the Free State ; but I'm utterly unable to approve 
(on the point of expediency : I don't at all mean morally) 
the method of opposition adopted. The only expedient 
way is constitutional work for freedom, either by advocacy 
only or by " passive resistance " or some such devices : 
but there is no sign that such a thing may be. Poor Art 
O'Griovha, 1 a lifelong friend, had to my mind made such 
a chaos of Ireland as must cloud his eternity. The 
Republicans, my party, seem to have nothing but hope- 
less destruction, spreading frightful demoralisation, with 
which to meet that first disaster, the signing. 

I'm ashamed before you over this ill-starred work, your 

S. M. K. 



DUBLIN [October 30**, 1922]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Very good of you to write : my 
wife's address 3, Spencer Road, East Cliff, Bournemouth, 
and very East Cliffy she seems to find it, but then I believe 
'tis bitter everywhere. I keep urging her to go to the 
S. France (tho' I also keep hoping she won't) : the puzzle 
is that if she fell as seriously ill in those remote parts as 
she did here she'd be in a sad plight and a distant place ; 

1 Arthur Griffith, 

LETTERS 1922 179 

on tother hand the very sun might, ought to, be a flaming 
sword keeping the pains and their sad suite away. " Que 
faire, mon dieu, que faire mystere." 

I'm working hard and, I think, well : hope very soon 
to name days. Our Plotinus gets a princely praise in 
A. E's dedication of his new book to it : his Interpreters., 
which does (in its first chapter, all Pve yet read), does 
interpret with magic and grandeur on the top of pene- 
trating truth, does interpret the revolutionary or rebelly 
mind as we know it, or have known it till a year ago, in 
this torn land. 

I remain by the way impenitently republican (as the 
last ditch of non-Britonism) but I like to say to everyone 
that I deplore and loathe, utterly ban and bar, the work 
now doing in the name of those high things, those true 
principles. I'm the sole Non-Military Anti-Britonist in my 
country : the mad military mind has us in tongs. 

Always all good wishes and great admiration, 



BOURNEMOUTH [December zStk, 1922]. 
DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, Woes upon woes, and more hin- 
drances to the work. My wife is deadly ill again, the 
doctors thought she must die on Christmas day ; she's a 
trifle better, but they hold out only faint hopes of recovery. 
If she dies I will go back at once and try to bury myself 
in my work, our work ; but she may be long on the 
borderland and I not able to leave her even for the few 
days required for the double journey to fetch over my 
books : I had to leave with a collar box on the urgent 
summons. It was most horrible, not only on account of 
my wife (my dearest friend) and her agony of disappoint- 
ment over her health, but because I had been for the last 
month waiting for the death of an old aunt, one of two 


who were mothers to me. I had to fly from one death 
bed to another : a terrible time : but I care for nothing 
but my wife : if you saw her, a little withered old flushed 
face quite unrecognisable, a skull with a fiery skin stretched 
over it ; yet when we're not crying together , we are laugh- 
ing ; she's the liveliest thing that ever lived ; the very bravest 
and brightest too : if you listen, you think she can never die ; 
if you look at her, you ask can she live a five little minutes. 
If I can go over and get the books when she has turned 
the corner, I will never again be 12 hours away from her : 
her long sufferings and bitter disappointments have 
earned her all the help and comfort one human being can 

give another. Tjr . , , 

5 Kind regards, ^ ^ ^ 





BOURNEMOUTH \early in 1923]. 

D.E. 1 . . . My story here is bad : every betterment is 
followed by a collapse. The vital powers seem to be all 
but exhausted ; such a white thin limp seaweed as there 
is now to see, it cuts to the heart : but most days the 
patient seems still full of quiet faith ; we talk much of the 
gorgeous life we're to have as soon as her strength returns 
first here in the sunny Bournemouth in which there has 
not been one dry day since I arrived on Stephen's day, 
not one warm day, not one day which wouldn't make 
one vomit ; later in the S. France with music and gaiety 
etc. Sometimes the tears rise as she talks and I have to 
go to the fire or open the window to cover me and to get 
up force for the farce. All the medical side is hopeless, I 
mean doctors and nurses : I would be too, the weakness 
is so steadily overtaking her, but for the past experience : 
1 Dear Eamonn (Edmund) . The beginning of this letter is lost. 

Stephen and Marie MacKerma in their garden at Sea view Terrace 
From an oil painting by Mary Duncan. 

LETTERS 1923 l8l 

she rose from among the dead before and therefore may 
again : I scarcely have faith, just a faint hope. She's very 
patient, very wise, sometimes still very entertaining a 
great soul, really, under the appearance of wild-rose sim- 
plicity. When I look back over the years 21 this year 
I see a native grandeur of character working steadily 
outward, so that in yet another 20 years of living and 
seeing and thinking she would be all-good and all-wise. 
I wish I saw any evidence that I grew this way : I feel 
myself getting odious as I olden : I love God, or my 
picture of It, more, but man less, and Pm filled with mean 
irritabilities : I thought that if one grew in love and 
aspiration towards the divine one would ray out, like a 
genial old Kruschen grandfather, on all humanity : I 
don't find it so : I love children more, but I grow Synge- 
like in a nasty scorn of all who tackle the problems of life 
and don't, da varr, 1 see as I do : this I think the lowest 
of human traits : I'd rather be a gross sinner than a 
sinner by contempt and irritation. In fact I think that 
is the gross sinning, bitterness and gloom and reserve : 
goodness is to shine as the sun on all things and men and 
ideas, all. Here endeth my confession. 

Always most cordial good wishes. 

S. M. K.. 


[as from] 24, CHARLEVILLE ROAD, 


DUBLIN, izth April [1923]. 

MY DEAR B. I just learn from Mamma that two little 
packs of little books I've sent you have been sent to an old 

1 Irish, " for that reason." 

2 Stephen's brother. After serving in the Royal Marines, in the North- 
West Canada Mounted Police, and in the Boer War with the Imperial 
Yeomanry, he settled in New Zealand, where he was successively a farmer, 
a schoolmaster, and a clergyman of the English Church. He died in 
Australia, May 5, 1934. 


address an interminable bible of an address. My own 
wasn't in them, so there can be no return you must raise 
Cain if you want the books. I have another little lot, a 
very few, which I will soon send off to the Garland 
address : I can't keep them, since my own movements 
are very uncertain. 

Putiki and Warhake and various P.O.'s and School- 
houses and Islands and other things were in that bible - 

Little letters went at the same time as each instalment 
of books. 

M[amma] seems ill and troubled : times are hard : I 
fear she's working like a general servant again, and she 
not young : I can do nothing : our expenses my wife's 
and mine are terrific in this long illness. " Terrific " 
means, for months past, exactly two and a half times the 
total of incoming money : one of the " Serious problems 
of Life ", eh ? But one thing I have : I never worry long : 
the worry presents itself : I study ways out ; if I find, I 
rejoice : if I see none, I say " well then there's no way ; 
let's see what happens ", and except for pure study (as 
unemotional as that of some problem of history or mathe- 
matics) I don't consider the matter again. I hasten to 
add that I don't think this is the noble way (the moral and 
virtuous are the worriers ; they more successfully do their 
duty than I) ; but it's very effective as a means of keeping 
the hair on the man. 

you < 

3 S. M. K. 


[as from] 24, CHARLEVIIXE ROAD, 


DUBLIN [July 4,th, 1923]. 

MY DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, My wife died today, 4th July : 
a merciful release. For 6 months she has been suffering 
more than one would imagine any justice would allow to 

LETTERS 1923 183 

be inflicted on one so innocent of harm to man or beast 
or flower; a real good soul ; the soul of kindliness essen- 
tial ; the gayest, chatteringest thing that ever walked 
I'd say. 

In about a week I will be back in Ireland at the old 
address above, and hard at work trying to make up for 
lost time which however one really can never do ; one 
can only try to show one's rectitude, the days are gone 
pereunt et sometimes imputantur. 

I will write from there as soon as I see where I stand. 
The past long time now has been a standstill nearly ; 
impossible, for me at least, to do anything with one's loved 
comrade gasping and moaning and visibly fading and 
in all but daily peril. 

Sincerest good wishes, 

s. M. K. 




[August 6th, 1923]. 

CHER AMI, You were always pure gold a thousand 
thanks. I'll cherish the book as the apple of my eye. I'm 
most grateful to you also for sending for the two from 
Germany : I enclose cheque for 1 to cover all expenses. 

As for your lovely letter : my dear friend, there are 
things that cannot be thanked : no one showed any 
appreciation but you of what to me was the simple truth 
about my Old Lady : to me she was the most vividly 
lovely thing always that ever I knew or saw a flashing 
life as a flashing eye, that after 22 x years made me still 
seek her company or neighbourhood, wherever we were, 
with the certainty of good entertainment : and you de- 
lighted me with the memory of the quaint in her : I was 
1 Apparently a slip for " 20." 


always affectionately and admiringly amused by the 
things she wore, as by things she did and said : I think 
still of them with a smile, forgetting for the moment, in 
the amusement, that all that is over for ever and that no 
one knows will I ever know it again in any shape or form. 
Again a thousand thanks : be at ease ; the book will 
be always out of all peril. Cordially, 

s. M. K. 




DUBLIN [September 1923]. 

DEAR MR. DEBENHAM, I return your cheque with a 
hundred thousand thanks. I have enough to go on with 
and am making arrangements to sell out all our furniture, 
silver and things by the way, if you know anyone that 
sincerely wants what to my mind is a most hideous bronze 
by Rodin, the Centauress, 1 I'd be glad to know of it. I 
was offered 100 guineas for it some years ago, but my wife 
to whom Rodin presented it cherished it, and now the 

offering man ( in fact) is said not to be so well 

off and I don't like to offer him the thing again he was 
burned out and robbed of motor car &c. &c. ? and in view 
of money tightness people don't get him to cut into them 
so much. 2 The bronze is now with Lady Handley Spicer, 
8, Aubrey Walk, Campden Hill, who on a telephone 
appointment will show it to any connoisseur. W. 
Rothenstein is most kindly trying to find me a purchaser : 
like all Jews Pve ever known he's the amiablest of crea- 
tures as well as personally charming. But he reports 

1 Figured in Rodin-Gsell, I? Art, p. 134 Eng. edition ; R. M. Ritkc, 
Augusts Rodin, no. 26 ; Judith Cladel, Augusts Rodtn, p. 50. 

2 The prospective purchaser, whose name I have omitted, was a well- 
known surgeon. 

LETTERS 1923 185 

that everyone is horrified with the thing, as I am, for its 
lack of sculptural quality. Personally I always wished it 
out of the house, but I'd imagine that the very line of it 
and bizarreness of it would attract collectors. His idea 
was the soul emerging from the brute. 1 

Please understand that Fm not asking you to do any- 
thing in the matter just if you know anyone that collects 
these things. I add, impudently, that I would not sell it 
to you if you bent me the knee and begged for it. 

Now Plotinus. I have been thinking of coming over to 
London to see you ; only not doing so because you are so 
good, so unfailingly good, that I have dreaded a further 
appearance of profiteering on your goodness. 

Here is the whole ghastly fact : I can't say what time 
may do for me, but for the present the work is too much 
for me and my visit would have had the motive of asking 
you to allow me to make arrangements with Eric Dodds 
to finish the IHrd. vol. and to do the IVth. and last.* * * * 
I torture myself trying to devise plans by which to clear 
myself of the financial obligation the disappointment of 
your plans is beyond my cure, but I must be in your debt 
now for a huge sum, and, tho 5 I'm quite determined that 
if I live I will pay off much or all, the weight of this 
obligation crushes me : once I would have been happy 
(as I was, so long ago) to think of my Plotinus standing 
there printed to carry his mingled message of silliness and 
sublimity for the final gain of thinking moral thinking, 
religious thinking, philosophical too now my happiness, 
or sense of huge relief, would be when a better man was 

1 Gsell describes it as " an image of the soul, whose heavenly impulses 
rest miserably captive to the bodily clay," It is sometimes referred to by 
the title " Body and Soul." 


doing that, and I, at my footy journalism, slowly paying 
off my debt of honour. 

A propos de quoi I repeat pro forma, but with the most 
perfect assurance of my lightness within myself, that the 
whole disaster rose, not from calculation as to my advan- 
tage, but from miscalculation of my powers. I should 
have known my temperament better than to accept what 
bound me in honour (and even in law I suppose). I 
should have understood that what looked very nice and 
"all but ready " in MS. and in typescript would look 
appallingly unfinished, crude, " failured ", when one was 
about to publish. It always seemed to me that all the 
final work could be done in a few slashes of the pen after a 
rapid rereading of the Greek : always I found myself full 
of uncertainties, fears, scruples of the literary and meta- 
physical and scholarly conscience : " Could not this page 
sing better ? " " It is possible after all that so and so is 
right here, and my Grecity, or my sense of Plotinus' 
thought and manner, at fault ? " that sort of question 
keeping me weeks scraping at one little place, taking off 
and putting back and very often after the weeks leaving the 
thing, the place, as it had been in the MS. of years back. 

Fm bitterly ashamed even bitterly ashamed that I'm 
in a position forcing me to try and justify myself I feel it 
a stain to be clearing, or trying to clear, my character. 

If you say you would like me to come over and talk the 
matter through, I'll come : don't ask me to stay with you : 
I'm a boor and have no clothes and no manners ; at a 
little distance I'm all right but, close at hand ah, zut ! 

If you say " No : go on " : why I'll do my honest best 
but will not think you wise, or at least quite au fait with 
the facts, the facts of me and my brain etc. 

Think, and at your leisure let me know your decision. 
Whatever it be, I will accept it to the full and work at it 
loyally : free of the work, and working otherwise to pay 
the debt ; or toiling at the work because, unwisely, you 
so wish it. * * * * Very cordially, s M< K- 

LETTERS 1923 187 




DUBLIN, September [ioth?]> [1923]. 

MY DEAR MAN, I've not yet found here a clean clear 
complete Ilia d worthy of you ; so as you seem pressed 
and I understand that literary impatience very well I've 
ordered one for you from a Cambridge bookseller. Myself 
I like of course to possess completes, and I think I have 
every Greek and Latin author so ; but I have a great 
desire too for pocket, tram-car, hedge-side, pack-in-your- 
week-end-valise separates one play, one dialogue, one 
chunk, with notes. I like the elaboratest and childishest 
notes I can skip what I don't need ; and such is the 
wobbly weakness of my Graeco-Latin mind that I often 
find myself referring with zest to some note which many 
times before I had disdained and not needed : I am 
capable of forgetting the imperfect of TVTTTCU or the ablative 
of munus : what I have done with Plotinus is a miracle, 
the miracle of persistent resteadying of a mind that dips 
and tosses and disappears like a cork on the waves of your 
Bay of Islands. 

You've cheated me of a cheat I really tried to work on 
you : I disapprove a man that prefers the Iliad to the 
Odyssey ; such a one I'm sure God doesn't love ; I meant 
you to read the Odyssey through before I Iliadised you at 
all : when those separate books were a penny a-piece I 
thought God wouldn't love me unless I grabbed them for 
you, and so my plan ganged agley. The Sophocles by the 
way that you liked so lyrically in your last cost 3/6. 
Aeschylus and Vergil were id. each : I tried to get the 
two for id. but the brute wouldn't climb down. The 
Ovid was the apex ; 8d. and 6d. refused with scorn 
such dogs there be. You never send a word to little 
Lizzie ? A blessing to alL s> M- K- 


When I get at my stored books soon now I hope I'll 
probably send you several billions of odd copies, dupli- 
cates, tear-stained, underlined and blasphemously anno- 
tated veterans of my scholarly agonies. The postage is the 
mischief generally more than such books would ever 
fetch or ever cost. 

It's pleasant to give such pleasure : I thank you for 
giving me the chance. You ought to get the Iliad about 
a week after this : let me know ; and above all whether 
as I most strictly enjoined they sent a clear edition. Let 
me know at once of any very special desire : I think you 
as yet mentioned only the Iliad as pressing ? 




co. DUBLIN [October jt/1, 1923]. 

A GHARA YiL, 1 You don't give me much time with 
your " by return " : the English arc corrupting you ; 
who ever heard of a decent man living at such a speed ? 

I thought it was agreed that you were not to mention 
my name unless in actual bibliography, if there inevitably. 
I don't however care what you do or anybody does or 
anyhow bes done : only I never was nor my seven ances- 
tors before me Mackenna or McKenna or anything but 
yours faithfully S. MacKenna, Him what steals my 
capital K, may he never not never in churchyard lay. 

Also you made a fatal mistake in asking me to Reading : 
I might come : I may have to be in London for my sins 
very soon ; but I could polish you off in a morning be- 
tween two whackings and be back by tea time unless I 
misunderstand your distance 40 miles or 40 hours ? Oh 
the book : thanks : I love pocket vols. and look forward 
to profiting greatly. By the way anyone what says as my 
translation is free God will not love him nor I, Sw Ms K< 

1 Irish, " My dear Friend," 

LETTERS 1923 189 



DUBLIN [October, 1923]. 

MY DEAR FRIEND, A present arrived for me from Droit- 
wich. I suspect you, tho' I had a vague notion that Dr. 
lives in Essex why I don't know. 

I scarcely know what to say about the work. I'm in a 
dreadful state of incapacity : far better for you and for 
Plotinus had you released me : I peg away, but with a 
powerlessness to get things pleasingly right that tortures 
me : all my little literature seems to have deserted me 
save, most miserably, the sense of what should be and what 
must not be. I feel that I ought to be keeping pigs or 
sweeping floors. 

By the end of next week I'll be sending the " finished " 
IV to be retyped, hoping that having it perfectly clean 
and (as now) sense-approved before me I'll be able to ram 
in the literary neatness which still seems far to seek. 

As for the Vth which ought to go must with this 
fourth, the Sphinx alone knows when I shall feel even as 
far advanced with it as with this IVth. 

By the way, I'll send you the IVth direct from the 
typist so that you may have it as it now is in case I get a 
bullet or a cold or anything of that sort. If, as is most 
likely, I don't get any such release I feel most perfectly 
well then the last revisal will go to the Medici people 
when I have the Vth nearly ready. 

I'm really in. a most awful mental fix : no religion or 
philosophy has any validity over my trouble, nothing 
gives any value to life : it is a fatal folly to be as attached 
to anyone as I was to my wife : I still weep daily, uncon- 
trollably, and scarcely dare to go out lest I break down in 
public : the case seems to me to approach insanity, which 
I suppose includes emotional uncontrol as well as the 


intellectual Music solaces me, but no reading and no 
thinking ; they on the contrary put me " wronger ". I 
find religion nothing : we know nothing : we can only 
guess, and our guess changes with our health and our 
environment : the one religion I have now is a longing to 
see my wife again, and like all other religions there's much 
more doubt than faith about it. I'm tortured too wonder- 
ing would she want to see me : who can possibly tell what 
changes the habit of eternity may bring, supposing even, 
as on the whole I do, that we survive and know. Music, 
with one finger, and the calm beauty of fields and trees 
and the simplicity of children, these are the only things 
that keep me from the burst brain that at times seems to 
threaten a sort of boiling in the brain pan with most 
singularly no sense of ill health, generally even no physical 

Doleful, this : I feel it due to you to report ; and if I 
wait as indeed I have been waiting for a better state, 
I'll be long in reporting. 

Very cordial good wishes, 

s. M. K 

I suppose there's nothing in all that Reunion of Chris- 
tendom ? It's Catholicity would win in it ; for I believe, 
against nearly all the opinions, that Catholicity is doomed 
and that the victory will be to Judaism modernised, which 
is to say, to modern Protestantism, Judaism with the Lord 
Christ for a lovely Prophet : your people can slide out of 
your dogma, we can't out of ours. Of course the win 
would be temporary only : we would get a countenance 
which I believe (in the strong under-current) we are 
losing ; but in the long event religion must be free and 
not dogma-bound, an inspiration and a readying, not a 
creed. If Mahomet had been a trifle less Oriental his 
Koran would pretty well represent the religion of the 
future : 'tis Judaism with a beginning at least of the sense 

of the Lord Christ. 

s. M. K. 

LETTERS 1923 igi 



DUBLIN, Xmas Eve, 1923. 

MY DEAR VIOLET, It was very good of you to write to 
me : I wrote immediately to the child lest she be dis- 
appointed and chilled, and with the notion that maybe 
she would like an imposing-looking letter all to herself : 
a thing that pains me very much is the thought of a child 
suffering disappointment ; I remember my own suffer- 
ings in that kind, though I must say my experience of the 
babies of to-day is that, like us older ones, they don't care 
a rap over such things : probably I was morbidly sensi- 

I'm not bored by children ; on the contrary I'm 
charmed, spell-bound by them, though, to be honest, 
rather afraid of them until I know them well : I have 
village children of Dundrum where I live, four miles 
outside the city who halloo me from the cabins and 
offer me half-sucked sweets with grimy hands and trot 
down to the station or back from Mass with me, and I'm 
ravisht by their conversation, their pretty words, their 
queer phrases, their confidential trustfulness : one little 
green-cap girleen often walks the ten minutes with me, 
then can't be satisfied but to come in on the platform to 
keep up the talk till the train (always late) puffs in ; then 
she slides away just before the gate is slammed for the 
new arrivals to show their tickets, I accused her the 
other day of coming with me to keep me in the sweet- 
giving mania I have, but she denied, indignantly though 
very diplomatically : " The way it is : we like you, 
sweets and all ! " She's an exceedingly bright childeen 
and never stops talking : you never have to prompt her, 
but she running along when I'm in a hurry hurriedly 
pouring out all the news of the family, breathlessly, with 


a slight stutter and the very prettiest little brogue you ever 
heard and incredibly beautiful words. " How's Andy- 
Joe ? " I asked, of a sick baby. " The child is but puny 
to-day/' she answered ; and her " but puny " was said 
so thinly and finely that the baby seemed to melt away to 
a faint blue spot in the far distance, so infinitely puny was 
the long sound of the very word. I would like to adopt 
this child, but she has a dreadful mother and seven 
brothers and a ghoulish-looking grandmother, so the 
relationship would be too large and dreadful. 

There are about six other children I'd like to steal 
from the age of two to that of twelve the richest talkers 
I have ever known : our people may have spoiled in 
many ways, and we're certainly dirty and in every way 
slovenly and shiftless, but by heavens we're eloquent : the 
beautiful words are a joy, and what is more remarkable 
still is the sense of conversation in the people : it is an 
exquisite art, practised with love and fury, and warmly 
appreciated by each in another. One meets it in all ages 
of the poor people ; in the tiny tot only just able to toddle 
and in the grizzled and stooped old people, a magnificent 
natural talent but one unfortunately that doesn't seem to 
bear cultivation : our educated classes are as dull as the 
English, except of course when you come to the point of 
real genius, the A. E.'s, W. B. Yeatses, James Stephens, etc. 
Nothing impressed me more over in England, during that 
tragic seven months while I was waiting on the death of 
my wife, than the dulness of all classes among those digni- 
fied mannerly and kindly people of that lovely western 
district : never a fresh phrase, never a newly coined com- 
bination of pleasant sound such as I hear all day long 
around me in my own Dundrum. (You see I live in the 
country, though for letters' sake I date from the perma- 
nent old address : impossible to live with the Aunt : 
suddenly, under stress of age and grief, she has changed 
pitifully, and, with still a kind enough intention, has 
grown bitter, inquisitorial, tyrannic : you must be in at 

LETTERS 1923 193 

nine ; you must be in for every meal ; she's afraid you 
are not executing your religious duties, are you reading 
doubtful books : and this though you are a warbattered 
world-rover of 50, with 30 years thinking and 22 years of 
marriage behind you.) 

All this is meant, in my rambling way, merely to ex- 
plain that I was glad to scrawl some nonsense to Bessie 
in answer to her very vivid and direct message : some of 
it she will understand, some of it you'll have to explain, 
in the total I hope it will have pleased her as a large and 
grown-up-looking communication to her very own self. 
It was necessarily in the void since I never saw the child 
and do not make myself any picture of your life or ways 
a difficulty I have not to face here, where I see the 
Maggies and Mickies and Shawnins and Mary Theresas 
and Brideens and so get over my natural terror of the 
loveable little scalliwags. I have often wondered about 
you people so far away, whether your houses look like 
ours, whether I can't even go on with the whethers, all 
is a fog to me : I have never seen a picture-house scene 
laid in New Zealand : I don't know where you are on the 
map : some one told me you were a series of islands but 
for all I know they may be islands 3000 miles long : the 
depth of my ignorance appals me ; I once saw N.Z. 
troops over here and was told they were Maoris, very 
fine slim dark grave young men : one of my wife's dearest 
friends in one of her dreadful illnesses was a New Zea- 
lander born, of Irish origin, a Miss Killeen, who was torn 
between her two loves Ireland so chill and so charming, 
New Zealand so lovely and so democratic and so hospi- 
table and of so lovely a climate but still not Ireland. 
What I owe to Miss Killeen ! An angel in the house when 
we had a gorgeous flat over a lovely square and no servant 
that could cook a thing my wife, sick to death, could be 
induced to look at : she would come in and I in tears and 
the very sweet little incompetent girl we had in tears and 
my wife weak and distressed ; and in five minutes she had 


everything in order, Marie smiling and I mixing eggs for 
an omelette, and in half an hour there' d be a lovely and 
varied meal and everything perfectly happy where all had 
been bleak and hopeless misery. Long after we got things 
fairly right Miss Killeen was still a fairy friend to us ; and 
in that time of the first chaos and horror, well it was an 
angel from heaven, or New Zealand. That's all I know 
of N.Z. but you see it's favourable knowledge as far as 
it goes. 

By the way, until I write to Bob, tell him that I didn't 
clairvoy anything wrong with his Greek : tell him I acted 
merely on my own knowledge of my own : it runs so low 
that I periodically have to have recourse to the one in- 
fallible method of revival, that of back-translation : I take 
Greek-Latin, Greek-French, Greek-German texts, and 
translate (generally in the mind, sometimes in writing) 
from the Latin, French or German, and compare my 
results with the authentic text there before me : a few days 
of this, and I find the dialect or the particular author's 
style coming back to me (my memory is very bad), and 
I can then go on reading gaily, until after putting the 
author by for some time I find myself rusty, then the same 
trick again. I think I have read again and again every- 
thing in all Greek down to Byzantine times (and much of 
that too, as well as a great deal of the purely modern stuff, 
lives of Washington, of Rodin, etc. etc.), yet at no moment 
can I be sure of understanding a passage put suddenly 
before me : after all these years and all this devotion I do 
not know Greek : I add that I have personally met only 
one who did know Greek, and I would find it hard to 
believe that in any one decade in any one country there 
have been as yet more than ten people who do know it. 
Mainly a matter of proper teaching : teach ancient 
Greek as a living spoken language (a very possible thing) 
for the long beginnings, then carry on by the back- 
translation method, and we could all know it, we who 
care, just as we can learn French or Russian. It's the 

LETTERS 1923 195 

barbarously imbecile teaching by rules and exceptions, 
by comprehensive paradigmas, and by premature mixing 
of dialects, and with stupid choice of texts and stress on 
foolish notes all that most cursed folly has stupefied us 
into inability, at my age, to hold Greek in our poor old 
weary skulls. I believe it is now being taught at Cam- 
bridge 1 in the modern graded conversational way, the 
modern modern-language way, and is succeeding. The 
editor of the Freeman., a good Grecian of my old style, told 
me that his daughter came back from three years of this 
school saying to him daily and all day in excellent fluent 
Greek, " Morning, old lad : like your eggs fried or 
boiled ? Going to be cursed hot to-day, but thank 
Heaven I've nothing to do but grill (^Ato^o)) on the lawn 
and smoke (tcami^} a handful of cigarettes (crtyaperra 
or oriyapena) until it's time to go and jazz over at the 
O'Briens (cr/apretv or xopoTrqSav) etc, etc. : all in Plato's 
or Xenophon's style and vocabulary, only borrowing from 
the modern language the few words necessary for purely 
1920 things. As the editor of the Freeman is a bit of an 
artist, I don't guarantee all this to the foot of the letter, 
but something like it I have every reason to believe has 
been realised and there's no earthly reason why it 
shouldn't. Mere matter of method, it is. 

This I perceive is a chunk from my unwritten letter to 
Bob : my letter to Bessie contained, similarly, things for 
you two less important people : Pm afraid I'm an incor- 
rigible mixer. Bob's, you'll see, will have chunks ad- 
dressed to him but obviously meant for you. I have 
(since the subject has been wrongly raised) somewhere a 
book or magazine articles on these modern methods of 
ancient language teaching : if I find it I'll send it on. 
Sorry I haven't sent any books since the Homer : I have 
them out of store, and a friendly dweller here (a Col. Long, 

1 At the Perse School. MacKenna himself at one time collected materials 
for a " direct method " Greek primer, but did not finish it probably 
because he found that he had been anticipated by Dr. Rouse. 


grandson of old Long the scholar : Epictetus, Marcus 
Aurelius, Herodotus etc.) has made me splendid shelves 
round a stable in which I keep them ; but I haven't been 
able (or zealous) to get them sorted : I sort of shrink at 
the task : I feel sort of will-less, oppressed with a sense of 
futility and insecurity, and indisposed for any strain or 
stress of decision : I can't even go on regularly at my own 
work, my long overdue 3rd vol. : and there's a fourth 
after that : I'm ashamed, and the more ashamed I do be, 
the less I'm able to polish off. You must have patience 
and forgiveness. 

This is a bad time of the year also : this time last year 
I was called over to the long deathbed of my wife, my 
only true friend in all the world (I mean of course in the 
sense of one closely at hand), and I'm foolish and grieve 
sadly. I had the great misfortune of dearly loving my 
wife : the loss of the double sense of being protected and 
of protecting, and of being amused and of amusing, the 
sense of an intimate comradeship absolutely unbroken, 
this makes me feel that life has nothing in it for me. But 
that's wrong : only that I haven't the courage to rewrite 
what's on the back of this, I'd tear the sheet up and leave 
out the weeps. I'm very strong on the theory of not 
telling (or even to oneself encouraging) one's griefs, but 
just grinning along : but theory isn't always sure to come 
out in practice : I start to tell people how I really don't 
care and I end in a howling sob. 

Sob-Bob : that's the connection (it's always amusing 
to see how one's thoughts develop the one from its former) 
I meant to tell you that while of course you hit the nail 
on the knob in telling me what a splendid being I am, 
you're also not far wrong in your judgment of what is 
sterling in Bob : often, contemplating other people's lives 
and doings and mutual reactions, I reflected that, while 
we two absolutely must have had bad times together as 
boys side by side, I don't remember any one such time. 
Among my other brothers whose list is long, like the 

LETTERS 1923 197 

Army List I observed many ructions and remember them 
vividly, even some terrible hair-raising scenes ; but I 
absolutely cannot recall and never have been able to 
recall any scene between Bob and Meself, not even the 
coolness of an hour at a time : I remember bad half-hours 
even with the Aunts, even with the gentle little old Lizzie 
who usually was as putty and butter in our subtle fingers, 
but I don't remember the eighth of a second of more than 
casual frigidity with Bob : that I think must be a record 
of fraternal relationship ? I remember once, so noble a 
soul am I, nearly killing myself to save him from a peril 
of which he never knew : I remember innumerable 
trifles which it would be amusing to tell of some day : but 
I don't remember any quarrel. I remember once when 
he unjustly accused me, with cool disapproval, of a thing 
I didn't do we must have both been very small : I re- 
member the very shine and smell of streets down which 
we passed about 40 years ago together : I remember 
bowling hoops with him as fast as we could bowl, as close 
as we could just without murder brush by a decent old 
fool who was just after teaching us, or trying to, the dates 
of the Kings of England : I remember penny bags of 
gooseberries bought and eaten together, all sorts of absurd, 
infantile things like that : I remember my amazement at 
his taste in reading, and his contempt for mine (I couldn't 
read adventure stories, and he despised my taste for tales 
of little girls who didn't mend their gloves and so dis- 
tressed their dear Mammas when the crime was dis- 
covered, at the teaparty, by the Vicar's wife) a thousand 
such things I remember, and I can remember many dis- 
approvals on his side and on mine, and I cannot remember 
one quarrel, one nasty reproach, I do not believe there 
could ever have been one solitary blow. Gold dis- 
approval, instantaneously past, that is all I can remember: 
I remember one, no, two grave injustices in judgement he 
did me, and still feel them fairly vividly : I remember 
once loathing him for a contemptuous phrase he uttered 


over a very foolish but well-meant act of our Aunt Katie : 
but with all this I repeat I can remember no quarrel, 
only the very faintest cloud of a moment. 

The more I think of this the more Pm astonished : it is 
a great and glorious testimonial to the two of us though 
as a matter of fact mainly to him, since though I was the 
older he was naturally much more of a leader than I, and 
might well have found it quite natural (in the nature of 
boys) to tyrannise over me and, I resisting as even the 
worrrum will turrun, a quarrel leaping up and there 
never, in all my memory, was any such thing. One of 
my brothers hurled a lamp at my head and ordered me 
out of his house, so that I had to flee to Ireland from 
London immediately : others punched me, others called 
me appalling names ; others stuck knives in yet others 
(we sound like a gang of drunken criminals : but most 
boys are as bad as that) . Hosts of such diabolical scenes 
enacted themselves round us, and one of my brothers for 
twenty years wouldn't speak of me or write to me, though 
I did him no wrong : but with all that hot blood around 
us and in us, and under the stress of close companionship 
and very different tastes and temperament, Bob and I 
never to all my memory had any scene at all : we appear 
to have behaved better to each other than two little nice 
old maiden ladies or than the terrible Colonel of the Lord 
Roberts story you know it ? The dreadful blasphemous 
and obscene martinet, and Lord Roberts abhorring such 
conduct, and on a great field day before Lord Roberts, 
the trumpeter blowing " Disband " or " Retreat " in- 
stead of " Charrruge ! ", and the Colonel beginning 
" You . . . " then, feeling the Roberts eye coldly upon 
him, continuing gently, " naughty trumpeter." 

Thus we were : angelic beings, apparently : we couldn't 
really have been that, because though MacKcnnas we 
were human ; but we must have been remarkable, or 
some memory there would be of those dreadful things that 
are normal in the association of boys, especially where 

LETTERS 1924 199 

there was no big Old Man with a horsewhip to keep order 
by terror. Or was it perhaps precisely because there was 
no terror to wear upon our nerves, nothing but two quiet 
little old women (who by the way must have been almost 
babies -at the time when they ruled us) ? Problem : 
puzzle : mystery : but I maintain it showed virtue in us 
also : and, remembering how very much more virile Bob 
was, and yet that I in a quiet way had as I have the pride 
of the devil himself, he certainly deserves some sort of bun. 
This has been a long scrawl and perhaps incoherent 
(and illegible ?) : it's my way to go when I'm going : I 
never stand on the mat. So good-bye thank you very 
much for beginning an acquaintance which I will not 
wish to cut short. 

So my love to my sister. 

s. M. K. 




DUBLIN [January 2jth, 1924]. 

A GHARA YIL, Yours crossing mine advocates what I 
had vaguely adumbrated as almost too good to be true. 
The very notion makes me younger. 

To-morrow (Monday) I give one half of the IVth Ennd. 
to the typists and will send the clean script to you as soon 
as I have it checked. The rest will follow wad by wad : 
short of accident, three weeks ought to give you the com- 
plete IVth. 

What I have read of the new stuff nearly the entire 
half for the typists strikes me as very good, far and far 
better that I had in my sick soul imagined it. Once 
already I wept for the sheer beauty of a passage the 
Greek no doubt, yet adequately enough carried over into 
your language. It's true the passage was one I remember 


citing to my wife ages and ages ago, as we rode between 
Magdeburg and Hanover on our route, Berlin- Amsterdam, 
on bicycles such ages ago, was it ; in the good days gone. 
She loved the passage and we rode chanting it in an im- 
provised translation, like the gay green fools we were. 
But, this memory apart, the thing is good tender and 
large, like Casals on the 'cello. 

All the stuff as far as I've gone strikes me as at least 
dignified and immaculately clear (to the willing and suffi- 
ciently instructed), and clearness is my Rachel, if that 
was the lady some Biblical gentleman toiled seventy years 
for and I think I remember didn't get in the end. It's a 
great gift of the gods, stupidity, if only time is added : a 
real bright fellow bes unclear by swiftness of insight ; I 
suffer so much by anything unclear that I delve and spin 
like Adam and Eve only to get clarity the first jewel of 
literature to the likes of me. 

I veritably believe this translation to be unique in its 
clarification of the most unclear writer that ever wrote* 
Fd be happy in death if they put on my tombstone : " He 
toiled for clarity and by gum he got it." 

Many thanks for this most relieving thought and act. 


s. M, K. 




Saturday, 2Qtk or ^otk [sic] Feb.> 1934. 
MY DEAR BOB, I can't write very much, but this tells 
you that Aunt Lizzie died lo-day ; nearly 80 years : pain- 
lessly, as far as we could judge, from the very beginning 
of the graver condition to the very end, It was a lovely 
little soul : I think that it was a very fairly happy life as 
life goes : she was embittered towards the end by the 

LETTERS 1924 201 

state of the world, the state of Ireland, her own financial 
decay and of course the sense of loneliness in her old age. 
But all this was mainly a matter of the surface : deep 
down I think she had found life pleasant, as hers was 
innocent and kindly and surrounded by affection : of 
course many, most, of her old friends were dead she was 
lonely enough, but those that remained loved her. * * * * 
Given the world as it is, the little old lady no doubt 
whatever served faithfully and usefully in it gay and 
good, loving and calling out love and kindness in others 
but why the world should be at all for anyone to help 
in it or to mar it, that's a mystery beyond all solution 
to any reason. As I watched the poor little old lady die 
I couldn't but smile to think how horrified she'd be if she 
knew what questions I was asking and I standing by her 
little bedroom altar where the blessed candles were lit, by 
the holy water stoup and the statuettes and the holy 
pictures and the sprig of last year's Palm. Just a day 
before the 8-or-g-days unconsciousness fell on her she 
begged me to take care of my dear soul the poor little 
old lady. The last time I saw her up, it was in her little 
" drawing-room " she was, on her knees at a chair with a 
candle to light her prayer book. When she took to bed 
for the last spell and the eyes began to cloud over, she 
used to take her little old prayer book in the hands blue 
and thin like a hen's claws and pat the little book and 
cry. To me this life of prayer seems at once beautiful and 
silly : I can imagine, though with difficulty, a creator of 
infinite worlds who wants me at Dundrum and my Aunt 
at 24 Gharleville Road to keep a law ; but that He should 
want me to say Holy Holy to Him, or need that I ask Him 
to keep me good that I confess is impossible and almost 
repulsive to me. In fact life with or without religion 
seems to me equally to be disapproved : without religion 
it seems beastly or " dead " ; with, it seems slavish and 
unreasonable. Pm in the utterest fog. Have you any 
convictions ? The nearest I get to my own is a vague 


Judaic Romishness : a doubtful feeling that there's one 
God and father, creator or immanent power of the worlds, 
plus a sentimental attachment to the forms and to the 
tradition of Old Rome. Sometimes I confess I think of 
living in England and becoming a vague Broad Church 
philosophical " Protestant "but I hate the name of 
England and couldn't bear hymns about split Rocks and 
bloody Lambs* -r 

* S. M. K. 





[August or September., 1924]. 

MY DEAR GHARA, Very good of you : I don't agree 
with you of course : 1 I couldn't accept anything from a 
society, or even from a Games, where the title or purpose 
is such as to play the old game of pretending that anything 
with any shreds of respectability flapping about its flanks 
is British or pro-British. The one pure spot in me is the 
passion for the purity of Ireland : I admire the English 
in England, I abhor them in Ireland ; and at no time in 
more than 30 years of my emotional life alas Pm 53 now 
would I ever have accepted anything from Royal Societies 
or Gawstles or anything with the smell of England on it. 
People think (I've received a shoal of abusive letters) that 
this is a new thing, a de Valeritis : 'taint nuffin of the kind, 
'tis a life-long insanity, an old fever working in the blood : 
the mere news that I had been thus raped in my absence 
set the blood dancing with fury so that on the heights of 
Boscombe cliffs where I read it, I kinduneued 2 to fall 

1 1 had written to expostulate on his refusal to accept the gold medal 
conferred on him by the Royal Irish Academy : see Memoir, p. 82 and 
letter 37A 

LETTERS 1924 203 

down into the sea with a tremble of rage and a blindness 
and giddiness of shame. Had I heard of this thing quietly 
beforehand I'd have simply written privately to decline : 
I don't love fights and publicities : but outraged as I 
slept I had no resource but to swot them one : as a matter 
of fact, everyone thinks Pm an ass, I've received only one 

approbatory letter : people have emptied unnameable 

things on me poor old cranium whereby I know that 
Ireland is doomed, dunged sordes eius in pedibus eius 
and herself rejoicing in it. 

I don't know what's happening to Plotinus : he's like 
the Republic, can't emerge. 

I wish you the best things in life, you and yours Pm 
afraid your mother'll never forgive me : no one ever does : 
I fled from all Ireland in a sick headache that was like a 
portable hell under my hat the last weeks, and everyone 
writes to me that at least I ought to have laid it aside and 
come to see him her or it : yet 45 times one him her or it 
is 45 ; that's a thing no one sees. 

Very cordially, 

s. M. K. 



about September 1924.] 

MY DEAR BOB, I congratulate you and Madame on the 
new life opening before you. I don't quite clearly under- 
stand whether you will be at once a clergyman. Pm sorry 
I don't even know what a deacon is in the English church, 
and have only a hazy idea of it in our own ; a sort of 
vcstmented holyman that sings the gospel I know, but his 
ecclesiastical station I don't know. You see how far I've 
drifted : Pm more in sympathy now with Judaism than 
with any of the (now) western forms of religion : though 


indeed (as I horrified a parson friend of mine by saying 
recently) the Book of Common Prayer, save for a mumbled 
creed and the frequent " Through our L J.C.", is really 
Jewish religious service. I think the western world, in so 
far as it cleaves at all to the olden forms, will be increas- 
ingly Jewish : certainly the Anglicanism I observe, over 
great names, in the Hibbeit Journal (to which for years Pm 
faithful) is Judaic, monotheistic, undogmatic except in its 
monotheism. I'm afraid our beautiful Roman mum- 
meries which I love with all my quivering heart are 
doomed, damned by their dogma. Some of the practices 
of obligation too are odious ; the Confessional for instance 
(as an obligation) is a dirty interference with the sacred 
secrecy of the human conscience. As a non-obligatory 
advisory or consultative institution, it seems to me very 
valuable : as a compulsory rake-over of all one's sins or 
leanings to wrong, it seems to me to be psychologically the 
maddest folly ever invented ; it fastens morbidity on to 
the soul, fills the sinner with the very thoughts he should 
avoid like the devil, and is besides, as I have said, to my 
mind the most loathsome outrage on the dignity and self- 
guiding efficiency of the soul. If your Anglicanism ex- 
cludes compulsory self-exposure, I'd approve it as a whole 
on that point alone : I mean, that one thing alone would 
make it better to me than R. Catholicism. I know an 
Anglican clergyman who in a London slum district heard 
confessions and thought it good : later he took a country- 
living and added to his income by taking three boys as 
pupils, preparing for a military school (Sandhurst? I 
think) : he told me he found it quite impossible to invite 
his boys to practise confession ; couldn't bear the thought. 
Has come to think with me that the confessional system 
is inhuman ; will gladly advise, will never no more not 
nohow listen to a set declaration of faults from any one at 
all, save on a deathbed. I delighted in this ; an exact 
confirmation of my own ideas. I'd like really if you have 
time (and if I'm not making an indiscreet request or sug- 

LETTERS 1924 205 

gestion) to know what you really do believe on the Gospel 
story, the old Bible, the sacramental system ; and whether 
you adopt this new thing with full intellectual adherence, 
or only (to my mind on the whole a very legitimate thing) 
only as a vehicle of spirituality without intellectual ad- 
herence to dogma. 

Very cordial good wishes, 

s. M. K. 





DORSET [October zoth, 1924]. 

CHER AMI, A confession : Mamma pressed me so hard 
to let her know what I knew about your move that, being 
utterly incapable alas of lying or even of deft concealment, 
I told her the truth, making her promise however not to 
pass it on, and not to let you know she knew. This last 
proviso I see to have been rather dishonest, so I write and 
confess : I always tell my friends to tell me no secrets, 
since I have no diplomacy, no arts by which, once sus- 
pected, to save me from betraying all I know. Anyhow 
I don't greatly see that it matters : I suppose you'll have 
to be or are you now ? Reverend (or Very or Rather 
or Almost Reverend in Sydney Smith's gradation) ; and 
your position is honourable. M. took the matter well 
enough : just O O O and then silence and not a word 
since, except that after a while I said, " We must suppose 
him sincere : I know myself how subtly the conscience 
works/' That was all, absolutely all. I might have told 
her that at one time I debated myself whether I might 
not do well to abandon the superstitions of Rome for those 
of Lambeth, as putting a less intolerable burden of dogma 
and observance on its people, and that I was saved, or 


perverted, mainly by the purely extraneous reason that 
I'm a furious nationalist in regard to Ireland and that 
Rome is the best trench against Buckingham Palace or 
Downing Street. Besides if I did make any conscientious 
change it would be to some non-hymn-singing Unitarian- 
ism or to a Modernist Judaism that of one of the Monte- 
fiores (I forget his first name), who is a beautiful soul and 
has written lovely religious books and has founded a 
Modernist Synagogue etc. 

Sometimes I think if I were young and felt nationally free 
(free as regards Ireland) I'd found (and be Pope and 
especially treasurer of) a new church which might be 
called the Exploratory Church : the rough idea, groups 
of Seekers with always a president or moderator and a 
vice-mod, and a deputy mod. and a vice-dep. mod., with 
a kind of grave debates preceded and followed by medi- 
tation and guided a little by variously chosen religious 
readings, of which the moderators, holy and learned men, 
would be the choosers, things from all religions, Buddhist 
not less than Jewish, the Koran next to Epictetus and 
Seneca, the poetry of all nations, the deeper, the enquiring, 
the awed poetry. Positivism, now dead apparently, would 
help us ; but we'd not go on the absurd, the monstrous 
Comte hypothesis or dogma (unless I'm wrong ; my 
memory is vile and it's long since I looked into Comte) 
that we do absolutely know ourselves doomed to eternal 
ignorance. In my own group I'm afraid there' d be a good 
deal of Plotinus, who if you accept (or simply ignore) his 
main assumption offers a fine religion of awe and straining 
and working, " The Awed Seekers " might be a name 
for the total of groups : they'd be absolutely free, except 
that they'd have always to be in close consultation with 
their Pope (and then this is essential remain free to 
snap their fingers at him if they so judged) ; and they'd 
have to stump up handsomely to keep me in my palace 
in books, gramophone records, musical instruments and 
motor bicycles. I veritably believe that the Religion of 

LETTERS 1924 207 

the future will be something like this, an awed seeking, an 
orientation towards the superhuman, the Power behind 
all ; with no permanent dogma, but the use of any and 
every dogma when, if only for a day, that dogma appears 
to be either true or a bridgeway towards truth or towards 
spiritual value, spiritual beauty. 

I don't know much about the English Church, but it 
appears to me mechanical, repetitive, and utterly lacking 
in the magnificent magic of Rome : I find far more re- 
ligion in a Mass, the lowest, with its silences and mystic 
gestures, or the highest with its gorgeously symbolic cere- 
monies and its majestic music the Gregorian, liturgical 
I mean and in a Benediction, which is a ceremonial 
hypnotism towards the Divine, than in all the Book of 
Common Prayer which (though beautiful, often, in litera- 
ture) seems religiously quite numbed quite outside the 
meaning of religion, the awed personal search. It seems 
to me smugly sure and at rest, where religion throws 
itself about in a kind of agony and must use magic. That 
magic is the difficulty of my own proposed Searchers : 
how are we going to get the creatures to be more than 
logic-choppers, a young man's debating society ? All I 
really see clearly is that first principle, that religion must 
be much more a search than a settled acquired body of 
literature. Of course within the English Church, with its 
recent freedom (Bishops who practically believe in nothing 
save God and virtue), a passionate searcher can inspire his 
people if he's orator and ascetic (or artistic : in some way 
highly sensitive and therefore moving) ; and it may be a 
good compromise. But perhaps you really believe all 
those quaint things ? I know, though I understand not 
at all, that many do. 


s. M. K. 



From " A. E." 


CO. WICKLOW, 14 NOV. '24. 

MY DEAR STEPHEN, Miss Mitchell has forwarded me 
your letter but not the book. I am here for a week taking 
the last of my holidays. I do not envy you your Bourne- 
mouth. I walk in Autumn woods all day and sit on 
stumps of trees, and feel happy when I do not see a house : 
the thought of Bournemouth stupefies me. But you are so 
wild in your mind travelling over the universe that I think 
you like contemplating stolid comfortable citizens. You 
would not be one if you could, but it rests you to see a 
villa and a comfortable seat and a bandstand and pleasant 
unimaginative folk. It is nature's way to attract us by 
our opposites. No, I did not get the letter you speak of. 
I am sorry. I always delight in what you say, whether 
written or spoken. I have been wanting to write a letter 
about your Plotinus for some time, and when I get this 
last volume I shall do so. I am pleased you should think 
I would appreciate your Plotinus ; and I do. It is one 
of the books I take up again and again and read in my 
fashion, which is to take a sentence and brood and brood 
over it until I find the life behind it. It takes me a long 
while to read a real book, and your Plotinus is a real book. 
I hear that you were indignant that Yeats crowned the 
Plotinus at the Tailteann games. Alas, I was the culprit! 
I wrote that part of his speech referring to your translation. 
You must forgive rne. Or perhaps you did not read the 
speech but only heard you were awarded a medal. Any- 
how if I write myself I will not write as a member of any- 
thing " Royal/' which I am not, or as a loyal subject of 
any State free or enslaved, which I am not, but as A. E. 
who is I hope always an anarchist in his soul and who 
feels like Omar about the world he lives in : 

LETTERS 1924 20g 

*' Could you and I with Him conspire 
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. 
Would we not shatter it to bits and then 
Remould it nearer to the heart's desire ? " 

If I am not a Republican it is because no Republican has 
raised up a lordly image for me to worship, and I am 
simply an endurer of things until I find the scheme of 
things for which I can fight. It is heavenly in the woods 
here. The sun is white in the sky. The sky is blue. The 
trees are like jewels, the grass is frosty and the stillness is 
alive. I think after all I am a poet, nothing else really, 
and I am writing poems all this autumn. Here is one for 
you. I call it " Promise." 

Be not so desolate 

Because thy dreams are flown, 

And the hall of the heart is empty 

And silent as stone, 

As Age left by children 

Sad and alone. 

Those delicate children. 
Thy dreams, still endure. 
All pure and lovely things 
Wend to the Pure. 
Sigh not, unto the fold 
Their way was sure. 

Thy gentlest dreams, thy frailest, 

Even those that were 

Born and lost in a heart beat, 

Shall meet thce there. 

They are become immortal 

In shining air. 

The unattainable beauty, 

The thought of which was pain, 

That flickered in eyes and on lips, 

And vanished again, 

That fugitive beauty 

Thou shait attain. 


The lights innumerable 
That led thee on and on. 
The Masque of Time ended. 
Shall glow into one. 
It shall be with thee for ever 
Thy travel done. 

You see the things which are truly at the bottom of my 
mind all the time I have to write about economics and 
finance and education and government. I know I shall 
take none of these things to Paradise and I feel about them 
as Tagore felt when he cried " What shall I do with that 
which will not make me immortal ? " But we have to 
provide for the wretched body, the wife and family, which 
things also have their meaning. Here is another of my 

Sometimes when alone 

At the dark close of day 

Men meet an outlawed majesty 

And hurry away. 

They come to the lighted house ; 
They talk to their dear ; 
They crucify the mystery 
With word of good cheer. 

When love and life are over 
And flight's at an end, 
On the outcast majesty 
They lean as a friend. 

And here is a last and indignant protest about the dark- 
ness we live in which I call " Mutiny " and which is a 
mood continually with me. 

That blazing galleon the sun, 
This dusky coracle I guide, 
Both under secret orders sail 
And swim upon the selfsame tide. 

The fleet of stars, my boat of soul, 
By perilous magic mountains pass, 

LETTERS 1924 211 

Or lie where no horizons gleam 
Fainting upon a sea of glass. 

Come, break the seals, and tell us now 
Upon what enterprise we roam, 
To storm what city of the gods, 
Or sail for the green fields of home. 

I send you these that you may believe I am somewhere 
in my soul going along the same road as your philosopher, 
though a million aeons behind him, and that I will listen 
to any words of his you send me with passionate interest. 
Perhaps he will break the seals for me yet. I am sure you 
will find Ireland is your spiritual home and come back to 
it* I never pretended to be anything specially national 
but I would be in despair if I had to live outside Ireland. 
I take all its gombeen men and its gunmen and its dull 
politicals as the weights Heaven has attached to it to 
prevent too great injustice to the rest of the world. I am 
delighted to hear from you, my dear man, and am 
pleased and proud you should have sent me the last 
volume of the Plotinus. I hope you are getting good 
health over there in that dismal land you have chosen to 
live in. 

Yours ever, 

A, E. 




[November ijth 9 1924], 

CHER AMI, I don't know whether you or Mrs. Debcn- 
ham care to read these things, e.g. A. E. on his own 
adventures with Plotinus : it may be something to you 
that a few such men value your offering. I got also a line 
from Compton MacKenzie the other day ; he writes that 


he got his Hid. Plotinus the day it came out : it was a 
stroke of luck that I was able to tell him in reply that with 
H. G. Wells he is the only English novelist Fm eager for, 
almost the only one I can read. Yeats, A. E., C. M. K., 
G. K. Ch., it's something that these few care tho' all the 
time I think the less of them in so far as 'tis not Plotinus 
but the Pis. of S. M. K. they value. 

In about a week I shall know about my new heaven : 
the nomad will pitch another tent, and contemplate near 
a tramline : you know of course that the tram was the 
invention of an Irishman, Irish American ; trams are 
" entirely holy things," linking the pig in the green field 
to Kreisler in the Winter Gardens : I can live neither 
without sight of my pig nor audience of my Kreisler, hence 
I reverence the immortal memory of the man whose name 
I forget. 

I returned your Pauline, whose name I nusremember, 
with great disrespect, and will soon send Mr. Alexander 
the Breviary this before I peg my tent on that tram 
terminus. Wetstein l 1 retain, returning, tho', the Ploti- 
nus as soon as I can open my own cases. 

Very cordially, 

s. M. K. 

A. E., like all great men, is a bit of an ass : I hurled 
Bournemouth at him as editor of the Irish Statesman, 
hoping he'd begin to think how sordidly inferior Dublin 
is : he chose to take it that I preferred " bandstands " to 
tree stumps and himself living in a suburban slum a 
noble poverty, but an ignoble contentment with civic 
inefficiency. Poets should sing but never speak : his 
philosophic indifference to environment leaves him a 
public peril, content with Dublin cities and free states. 

1 The Wetstem New Testament, which Dcbcnham had lent him. 

LETTERS 1925 213 




BOURNEMOUTH] [February 8th, 1925]. 

DEAR BOSS, You needn't have worried over that rub- 
bish many thanks tho'. 

Pve been half hoping you'd be down again and take me 
en route : I really must be on your way from B. to Moor 
House : there's no commandment, " By Poole shalt thou 
go " : Wimborne, as Emerson said of the roses, exists 
with God to-day. Of course without a warning I might 
very well be out, but what then you fare on. 

I have had a bad week : after lumbago came on the 
old bad nervous symptoms, the physical weakness, the 
blurred brain, the utter despair. I all but wrote you to 
go and be dee'd : but, tho' I'm still unsteady, I have been 
able to begin work again. You would have had the four 
new tracts long since, by the way, but that my type- 
writeressina first flouted me as not able to say Bo to a 
goose, and then, by a vengeance, fell ill : she writes me 
that I'll have them by the end of next week : I'll send the 
duplicates, new and old, i.e. seven tractates of the 9, to 
Mr. Alexander. This is a measure of precaution against 
fire or my own extinction, which last seemed to me 
probable and desirable for about a week until 2 or 3 days 
ago, when it suddenly and irrationally began to appear 
less interesting to take Plots, by the beard and demand 
what the devil he meant by this and that. I have often 
wondered what P. would say to me if we ever meet. I'm 
sure he'd behave like a perfect gentleman, but I think he'd 
never understand how unnecessarily difficult he'd made 
himself and probably would be rather chilly over some of 
our renderings. The French translation, the new, E* 
Br6hier, strikes me as [more] lamentable the more I 
examine it : the junctures, especially, seem utterly ill- 


advised or not thought out at all x : my work is avowedly 
tentative, but France and Germany don't seem even to 
have tented anything at all, but to get down words as 
nearly representative as possible (i.e. as the dictionaries 
allow) of the words of Pis. : the connection of ideas seems 
scarcely to have troubled anyone : yet it is the only thing 
that can give Pis. value to-day. When my slaughterer 
arises he will slaughter me largely by the light I have 
given : I shall die rosily, so, and from my ashes a better 
Pis, will arise. These others, these silly cribs (some cribs 
are not silly), have never lived ; they shed no light but 
that of dictionaries. Of course one has to have them, to 
study them, if only to be sure they are naught. 

I don't know why I meander on this way : glad, I 
suppose, to be quasi talking to you. 

I hope you get or is it possible ? good news of Mrs. 
Debenham on her long pilgrimage of mercy. 

Don't pay any attention I mean don't reply to this 


s. M. K. 




BOURNEMOUTH [lQ24 OT 1925]. 

CHER AMI, I blame me for not having written to thank 
you for the splendid present and the shop-going act 
thereto : my excuse, that I have a certain amount of 
nerve trouble and a good deal of physical weakness, kind 
of flu feeling without the other signs. I find myself hoping 
every day that I'll wake up to find myself dead, which I 
take to be peace. This doesn't mean that I don't read 
Corkery : I do, slowly, with intense interest and sense of 

1 He qualified this judgement in anothn letter. 

LETTERS 1925 215 

value, tho' the pathos of it is not the best tonic for the 
present languors : the old sad pull of Ireland at the 
heart-strings, quoi. Next to being a Jew I don't know 
anything more desolating than being of the Gael : if I 
had children Fd have planned to save them from that as 
from being English, I'd have worked miracles to make 
them French or Greek torn up all life to bring them up 
in some continental or even American environment from 
the earliest. Ireland seems to me doomed : it will be piti- 
fully British (feebly, torturedly, I mean : never coming 
quite to rest). I abhor the free state, but I don't know 
were I in Ireland would I vote for a Republican : I could 
never work either for the Britannisation of Ireland or for 
the renewal of its wound : I remain a Republican only in 
the sense that it seems to me (in so far as anything seems 
anything to my vague mentality) that one of the follies of 
history was the acceptance of that fatal treaty ; there I 
remain where I was that dismal Christmas. * * * * 

I wonder has anyone heard of Jamesy Stephens, 
whether he likes America, succeeds as a lecturer, etc. : 
he looked to me very ill when he was here, tho' he talked 
with immense animation and showed every way vitality. 
I secretly feared the strain of travelling, grinning, roaring 
in halls, would be too much for him tho' I notice he 
doesn't take eagerly what he has to take he has nerve 
placidity with intellectual agitation, a very enviable con- 
junction. I know that were I intellectually eminent to 
the degree of being commissioned to lecture so, I'd rather 
live in a brown coat in a country teach na mbocht * (how 
would you say in Irish a house for the poor ? Tig or teach 
na mbocht seems to mean the particular house of these 
or those particular poors? I s'pose left to our Gaelic 
selves we'd have given all these things quite other names 
names caught from quite other angles). 

Did you ever open a book on Motor Cycles or on 
making your own wireless set ? Open ; and see, the doom 

1 Irish, " poor-house," 


of the Irish : more easy, far, to translate one of them into 
Homeric Greek than into Irish. The best attainable 
would be to paraphrase a booklet of 100 pp. one shilling 
into a tome 0^550 pages 7/6 : Irish like Ireland is doomed; 
there is one God and Progress is his Prophet : be incap- 
able of progress and you're damned by his law. 
Which may you, tusa, 1 not be. 

S. M. K. 



BOURNEMOUTH [1924 OT 1925]. 

MY DEAR EAMONN, You say write soon and I write soon, 
touched. But what to write ? You write me a letter of 
philosophy and sociology or anthropology and history 
and all sorts of things in which I'm utterly incompetent, 
hopelessly dense and dull, I the least capable in the entire 
human race of that generalisation which I know to be the 
only sign or source of wise action and wise judgement. 
Also it happens that I'm to write on a day of trouble ; 
Seumas 2 has just left me, in rain and drearth : and I'm 
engaged in a row with my " landlady " who from being 
as kind as a mother of the cinemas has suddenly come on 
me with fantastic exactions : I tremble as I write. 

I always loathed and intensely admired the gentleman 
of whom you write : the only generalisation of which I'm 
capable is that all Irish Ireland is abominable and admir- 
able, gentle and savage, saintly and diabolic, generous 
beyond words and mean beyond all example, beautifully 
wise and most dangerously silly. I quite agree with St. 
John Ervine that the English are far the better people of 
the two, adding, against him, that we will never be half 
as good until we have them out of Ireland lock stock and 

1 Irish : = French " ten." * Jarne* Stephens. 

LETTERS 1925 217 

barrel and the very thought and memory of them, that at 
last we may elaborate our own character, working up our 
native virtues and working out our native or induced 
vices, which last are mainly the growth of a slavish irre- 
sponsibility and a slavish rebelliousness. Frankly, if I 
were you, I'd cut the whole thing : you served nobly, 
very magnificently, very heroically in the immense hero- 
ism of private service, of constant loyalty to an idea not 
so much resisted as sneered at, the witheringest opposition 
that can be encountered. I'd turn either into a benevolent 
careless old don or, if I felt young and fresh enough, go 
questing a good job in some warm and sunny untortured 
land. In England you'd probably groan over Ireland and 
for it, miss it and despise it : in South or North America 
or further Europe it would soon be as distant and faintly 
amusing as one's childhood's hopes and shames and rages 
and triumphs and fears. 

As for B.'s 1 position, it seems to me quite fantastically 
untenable. Munstcr's temporary topdoggism is of course 
B.'s own triumph. But for the Fola texts I don't believe 
Munster would have held ground at all : if Gonnacht had 
printed those keys, learners and teachers alike would have 
gone to Connacht once the first legitimate O'Leary boom 
had faded out. I see nothing written in Munster Irish 
to-day or these Gaelic League years to justify the idea 
that you can think better in Munster : get a blue pencil 
and make two re-writings per page on P. O'Conaire's 
stuff, and you have the only thing of modern Ireland 
that could be written by a French a German a Russian a 
Swedish novelist or playwright or essayist. It is also a 
fact that if you explained to any nation the general 
phonetic system of Irish (as a Munster man would have 
to give it were he to be short) and then gave them an Irish 
text to read, they would produce automatically a Con- 
nacht pronunciation : an crann thall could not possibly 
be pronounced as " a crown howl," suaimhneas couldn't 

1 Prof, Osborn Bergin. 


be " synus " or " sineas," etc. etc. For Connacht you 
have a reasonable all-Europe phoneticism, nearly com- 
parable to the precise easiness of Greek and Italian and 
I'm told Russian ; and you have in P. O'CL absolutely the 
only writing you could imagine a European reading, 
though what his final judgement would be is another 
question ; P. is often grammatically careless and incon- 
sistent, sometimes confused, a hundred faults : but he 
belongs to the European kind : compared with any 
Munster I know from O'Leary to to-day he stands about 
as a rather crackedy crotchetty university don to a school- 
girl : he is mature tho' faulty, he has range : the Mun- 
sterites are bright limited childishness. 

I don't know one Munsterite that has any notion of 
literature whatever : their one idea is a racy phrasing, 
and even at that they don't mind a most unracy repetition. 
One of them, not it's true famous, showed me a script in 
which 1 6 consecutive sentences began with td, vi or ni 
raiv, 1 and was amazed and angry when I pointed out that 
in no language could any raciness of single phrase excuse 
such a debauch. This was no doubt an exceptional case, 
but short of that extremity the thing is typical. The 
article by the way was an effort to show the overpowering 
charms of i8th century songs. The man was especially 
amazed when I said that it might do in the matter of the 
contents of an ironmongery store : td 2000 saucepans vi 
2500 ni raiv ach 200 sales thereof, etc. etc. Munster has 
the sense of phrase but no notion of literary congruity, no 
sense of literary architecture or carpentry, no sense of 
dignity, no sense of depth or range, no notion of true 
observation or of significant selection ; no spiritual 
emotion, no nothing that makes literature : above all I 
should have said they have no idea whatever of creating 
a phrase ; they resent new coinage, which is precisely the 
mark of literature (on the purely technical side, of course 
I mean). P. O'C. is full of new phrase, new to Irish if not 

i (There) is (are)," (There) was," " (There) was wot." 

LETTERS 1925 219 

so often new to the European languages on which (at first 
or at fifth hand, i.e. thro' translations or thro 9 English 
writers so influenced) he draws. Men who have every 
sense of these things, who coo over a new coinage in 
English (or an old that has gone out but is discovered in 
old writers, intelligible and charming), cry " haro : on 
me fait tort " when they find a novelty of idiom in Irish, 
even when the " novelty " is something that was in the 
literature but has been preserved only in a non-Munster 

The whole truth is that Munster is more alive to jobs 
and jobbery, quicker in this world's quickness, than 
Connacht or Ulster ; and also because the native speaker 
of M. spoke better English they became teachers : they 
spoke better English because Irish was much nearer its 
death among them, tho' of course I admit that their Irish, 
qu mere phrase, was on the whole richer as a rule. I 
maintain that with all P. O'C.'s little flaws he's such that 
an imaginary non-English-speaking Irishman steeped in 
him would be prepared for all European conversation and 
literature : no Munster writer prepares the mind for any- 
thing but a Munster cabin or old Irish story-life. With a 
very little patting, a man nourished on P. O'C. could 
translate into Irish from any European literature on any 
subject save science and the inner construction of motor 
cycles or wireless or aeroplanes : he'd have words and 
forms for all that deals with religion, with morals, with 
all normal human emotions : had he the " culture ** 
or the humour, he could write Elian or Pateresque essays, 
Shaw plays, Dostoievsky stories, P. O'C., with flaws, and 
speaking not of his mental value but of his range and 
language, goes very close to Maupassant : Munster keeps 
to the aonach and to cro na muc. 1 Of course all this might 
be reversed in a day by a new thing, a Munster thing : 
then the honours would be equal, with only a C. priority. 
It would still remain the fact that M- could never deserve 

1 " The fair " and " the pigsty." 


the Bergin Law (that M. is this or that, C. and U. only 
that other). 

D'ye know I think that Maire, who is an Oinseach, 1 is 
alone enough to disprove the alleged law : I abhor her 
thinking, but her language states a thought and states it 
very dam well : it's an irrelevancy that the thinking is 
poor or to me wrong : Fr. Dinneen's thinking is of a 
poverty that fills one with disgust, yet the language is the 
appropriate language of thought. Don't by the way take 
him as M. : he to my mind has always represented the 
best standard we have ever had for journalism and that 
sort of thing. It dates 

x Literature. 

Connacht speech. Munster speech. 

from the top of that triangle, and contains as much that 
is now exclusively G. as of what is exclusively M. If 
Dinneen had anything to say, or ever felt anything deeply, 
could think anything out, had any fire in his dim little 
blue-eyed soul, his stuff would be all we'd need : probably 
it would be demonstrably better than P. O'C's. It's a 
very great misfortune that he's a baby : did any cleric 
ever make literature, except as Bossuet in affairs of the 
metier ? Here again I think the Jews lead the world : 
their Cohens keep pawnshops and are Cohens only on the 
Sabbath : hence they're in touch with life, or were. You 
can't get Isaiah out of under a top hat or a clerical 
sloucher : Isaiah you may be sure lent money, or like St. 
Paul made beach tents for some Bournemouth. But this 
is wandering : I quite forget what I am to prove : " Quid 
erat demonstrandum " asked the boy at the end of the 
exam, paper : all I know is to Hell with CX G. B. and 
Munster, and up P. O'C. and the Republic and you 
and me. 
You know of course that this (or even the other) side of 

1 " idiot" 

LETTERS 1925 221 

idolatry I idolise B. : a noble-hearted gentleman and a 
gay scholar and an entirely scrumptious person if only he 
weren't a bloody Munster faction-fighter like every other 
dam Gael that ever lived. A lost race, Eamuino mio, a 
kind of pink-and-blue-faced monkey, God's grotesques 
and the devil's delight. To Hell with all Ireland and long 
may it live, the best little land at all, G. dam it. That is 
the uttermost wisdom, the Hegelian reconciliation of all 
the contraries, and I am your loving friend 

s. M. K. 





MY DEAR EAMONN, Certainly you write a superb letter : 
grave fancy, pleasant cadence, powerful phrase, bright 
picture : Best (Dr. Dicky) used also : he and you I'd say 
the best I have known. I'm scrawling this late on Sunday 
night or Monday morning, to be sure not to let it interfere 
with to-morrow's work : there'll be nothing in it, there- 
fore ; even if otherwise there could be. All you tell me of 
the house is sad gan auras, 1 but you'll be wise on that 
side of the thing : there are sorrows loo big for me (so 
that very often still I long to be away for ever), but I'm 
far too big for those material things : they look up at me 
and I look down at them and they simply run shrieking to 
their dens. I believe that if I find myself in a year or so 
with no money to buy roof and table (as I may) Til not 
care : Epictetus and Plotinus have at least taught me that. 
Pd suffer without books or music, but even that loss I 
think I could bear. This is not to suggest that you're not 
quite as wise a soul as I am : au contraire I recognise in 
your whole tone and tenour that, there too, you are one 
of Plutarch's men. * * * * 

1 Irish, " No doubt." 


I have sent a small subscription to a new political thing- 
Col. Moore-Beislaoi-Milroy constitutional anti-free-state 
(as I understand from a scant notice in the Independent] . 
It grieves me to see the old struggle afoot again ; but I 
can't bear the idea of an unchecked unmenaced Bri- 
tonism so I jumps in waving my 1 note. God help us 
all : it was a foolish dream, but I have to dream it out 
for the rest of my life. If literature didn't exist we'd all 
I suppose be happy pigs with our feet and noses snug in 
the trough : I can't forget the poets or the dead. And 
I have the deepest, a kind of tender, feeling for Col. 
Moore who seems to me a very noble type, honest and 
gentle and determined and dreamful, all the things a good 
man must be. Nelly l gave me a pang also, a good soul : 
I wish I were half as good as so many we have known, 
I'm really sorry to find I can't go on : I'm as trachta 
tanarha 2 as a hunted hare : extraordinary how tired I 
get and I doing so little : better soon and thin than fat 
and never : I mean a thin screed on the spot better than 
a long and plummy letter a year too late. I yawn : I can 
no more : save to wish you well and to wish also that you 
with so fine a literary gift were writing real books (in one 
of two languages or in both) instead of judging on dead 
things : I suppose you make even the history readable : 
Dan Godfrey gave a prize for children's answering to 
papers he set on a course of musical lectures he gave in 
the winter here : one little girl wrote " Sir Dan told us 
that high class music gives us something to think about 
but I don't find it gives us anything to think about." I'm 
like that in history : I respect it and wish I knew a few 
yards of it : Irish Greek Roman and Med. and Mod. 
European : but alas I never could hold two facts of it 
clearly in my head : I praise it but I don't find it gives 
me anything to think about. Indeed nothing does but 
music and the eternal religious problem : I suppose I 5 
still, think as hard and as determinedly perseveringly as 
1 Miss Nelly O'Brien. 2 Irish, " completely worn out." 

LETTERS 1925 223 

any brain that ever turned the mill, and it all leads no- 
where, leaves me the most ignorant, least convinced of 
human beings. I envy the ploughman who has a con- 
viction and lives by it. 

Twadddle, I do ; forgive goodbye, good luck. Very 
good of you to have remembered me. 

s. M. K. 




BOURNEMOUTH [Summer, 1925]. 

DEAR YOUTH, Many thanks : I find I can get most of 
those books from the admirable public library here : 
most grateful for the list : I ought even myself to have 
remembered the Bryce God help me I even read it once 
and forgot every blessed and unblessed thing in it : I 
can't remember facts, only ideas, and them weakly 
because of their dam being-based-on-fax. I deserve great 
rewards for so continuously managing to escape detection; 
no one but myself dreams what an ass I am, my one intel- 
lectual title is that I am able to carry it off with a swagger 
and pass for an ordinarily reliable ratepayer. 

Surely me son you mistake about " like Disraeli " : I 
may have said that as a rule I'd prefer such as Disraeli, 
but that must have been all on that head : what I have 
never been able to endewa is " like Disraeli did " where 
like is not a conjunction or a past participle or something, 
but a preposition or an adverb or perhaps vice versa you 
know what I mean : like with a verb to me dams a man 
to hell : in fact is his hell : he doesn't have to go any- 
where, he is in an unholy place ipso damo facto. I hold 
this abso-bloody-lutely, as a character in a novel said the 
tothcr day and I listning* 


Probably the last novel I'll ever read : I find nothing 
half so stirring, now, as theology, and nothing half so 
pleasantly soothing as History H. in the large e.g. of 
Reformation, of Early Christian Church, of Rome 
Greece I find too small and local, Munster waging war 
on Leinster, the Gresham Hotel on the Hammam. 1 I do 
think history the very foundation of all civilisation or 
rather all state-building, the natural dramatic humanly 
grippable introduction to nearly all the sciences, all that 
have to do with citizenship, touching as it does character 
and political economy and discovery and a hundred such 
things that you know better than I how to set forth. His- 
tory for the big canvas of humanity, novels for the facts 
and types of daily life in our own times, poetry for the 
high style and the language of subtle emotion, that I think 
to be all that should be taught in schools until the " age 
of specialisation," The novel-reading school is my in- 
vention, but some day 'twill be discovered. Had I 
children it's so I'd educate 'em : history, novels, poetry 
and if they'd take it music : and of course the newspapers, 
i.e. modern history, modern sociology. 

I'm leaving my lovely place poverty hunting me. I'm 
going, after Jamesy's visit (in about 10 days for about 10) 
to unfurnisht rooms, very charming, where I'll boil my 
own shoes and shine my own egg* If you too can do these 
things perhaps you'll visit me on your way back from 
Austria : after Jamesy here I hope to have MacGreevy 
there, then you if you'll come. I'll feed you one cheap 
good meal out of doors ; the rest would be cold, self-made, 
sufficient, monastic : ham and pickles and tea sort of 
thing, Bournemouth is simply ravishing the last month : 
my own view would melt you to tears, does me. 

8. M. K. 
1 Two Dublin hotels which faced each other across O'Gonnell Street. 

LETTERS 1925 225 


"WILDS/ 3 


[Autumn, 1925]- 

D. c. Lest you do things : once it gets definite you 
to take house Blackrock [or] Bray 1 I realise I couldn't 
live in Dublin, county or city. London or Bournemouth 
with 6 weeks in Ireland is the utmost. 

I have had a brief all but fatal illness a week of agony 
with horrible tho' comic symptoms, my nursing home 
(with shroud and all complete) actually dated Monday 
the somethingth of something, October I think and lo 
ye on the Monday I was, exhausted yes, but angelically 
cool and pink and painless. I had been the most fright- 
ening yellow green. Now Fm declared to be all right 
and quite supremely O.K. in about ten days. 

MY DEAR YOUTH, You made no blunder about AE 
once you didn't get my letter you did nobly for me. Nor 
is it possible for me to be annoyed with AE Good God, 
if I were editing a paper tho' it were only a paper of pins 
I'd expect to be the Gorrawmighty of the show and no one 
to pretend to contribute unless I liked him to do so. I 
couldn't quarrel with a man for not liking my writing 
stuff. I neither like nor respect it myself: to like my 
writing and wish for it is a most insolent flying in the teeth 
of my judgement, pure impudence. 

Seen the Oldhams ? Margaret or Eithne Kelly ? 


s. M. K. 

Darrell 2 did well : little in his life so became him, poor 

1 Curtis had suggested that MacKenna should join him in taking a house 
near Dublin. 
* Darrell Figgis, who committed suicide. 


fellow : great gifts, I liked him well yet foresaw, much, 
this. I'm thinking of opening a shop to sell predictions. 
Twice I have secretly made the most astounding and lo 
they came true : I have never made a false one. Any 
man, and I to say of him you'll steal, you'll murder, you'll 
self-murder, he has got to watch out for he will. I add I 
know nothing against yourself. 





[Autumn^ 1925]. 

D. E. Your otherwise noble and Plutarchian character 
is marred I perceive by a pettifogging honesty* Who but 
you in the world would offer to send 2 for a forgotten 
borrowation. 'Tis what the Gaelic would say. The Rule 
of Borrowing is to Keep It. Keep it, so ; as a gift from 
the Lender who would I'm quite sure wish you to have 
what she liked to store with you. 

Miss Patey l loves you duly but will not take you, or 
ever anyone at all not no more never : she obliged me 
that once ; not twice, not for gold or kisses. I struggled 
up from one disgusting illness into an illness not so plain- 
spoken and illbred but even more painful, muscular 
rheumatism ; 'tis nice to have a mentionable illness for 
drawingroom use, one fit for publication and portable 
through the mails. But it's deuced painful and besides 
foments nerve trouble so that for two days I couldn't see : 
all the world a mist and all its beauties missed ; the 
human face just a concurrent turnip, no distinctions you 
know. I don't feel a bit dead, and the doc who was has 
ceased to be worried, but I have prepared for my death 

1 MacKenna's landlady. 

LETTERS 1925 227 

in many ways : the only thing that worries me is poor old 
Plotty who will go bocketty on 3-^ legs when he should 
have 5. If I'm alive at Xmas I'll be delighted to see you 
at the hotel, as you say if not, why I don't care a dee. 

my km to OB. 1 s. M. K, 

Don't laugh : I re-open this coz why I suddenly relise 
(as Inez says) that you'll probably misconceive : shame- 
ful, yes, as the vile corpus is shameful, but not as the soul 
may be my disease was the acute stage of a pee-ability 
that has intermittently haunted me for years, and I took 
to spouting blood from whence only innocent streams 
should flow and that in strict limit. It's more comic than 
shameful yet remains unquotable : there's a nice Greek 
name for it, something like I suppose urethrohaima- 
torrhea, but I'm not up to medical Greek at the best of 
times or any Greek most times (but that's a secret shared 
only by a few hundred of my most intimate friends and 
their circles of gossip and scandal) . 

What an infamy by the way that armistice smoke bomb 
business. I'll die a Republican, but I swear I think they 
ought all to be flogged first and shot afterwards and shat 
upon after that. I'm the only decent Republican I know, 
and I'm futile. If I were in Ireland I'd write to the 
papers (tho' they seldom used to print me) to protest 
against this murderous blackguardism, masquerading as 
holy freedom. Let you tell it abroad. Especially to Re- 
publicans if any. 

Ask at any Dublin bookshop or of any classic friend for 
the third vol. clean and cheap of the Didot Greek Antho- 
logy, di ever tell you I got the Wetstein New Testament, 
noble vols, for 3 : some amaddn 2 told another, I think 
yourself, they'd be %o. 

Good Luck. 

s, M. K. 

1 Osborn Berlin. * Irish, " fool." 





[about November 3, 1925]. 

DEAR BOB, To-day (about 3 Nov.) left this house to 
you-ward the little kegeen of books. I kept them long, 
hunting for 4 I remembered : two of those I found ; one, 
alas, and alas one of the most useful, I don't find, can't 
and won't. It was the first vol. of a 4-language Old 
Testament, Hebrew Latin Greek (Vulg. and Sept.) and 
German (Luther) ; you have only 2 out of the 3 [volumes]. 
The other missing volume was a little pocket New Testa- 
ment in Hebrew, used for the perversion of the Jews, and 
a mighty good way of learning Hebrew. This I'll send 
if it turns up, but no more packets or gross vols : the Post 
Office has me hairs grey with their restrictions and fussifi- 
cations. The books looked a dismal raggedy crew as they 
got into their places for their long journey : sort of Dr. 
Barnardo Boys going off to live a new life in a new land, 
and they not fresh and clean and elegant at all at all. 
One of them had no breeches to his bottom, and several 
or nearly all were otherwise disreputable : I'm hoping 
you'll get this warning before the kegin arrives, so that 
you'll not be disappointed. 

I wonder what you thought of the Hibbert (if you don't 
know it) : it was less religious than usual : astonishing, 
the Broad article, very unsatisfactory to my mind, though 
Pm too lazy to attempt to reduce my objections to any 
attempt at demonstration I mean even in my own mind. 
Try as I will I can't not believe in a God : I thought also 
that this had gone out of fashion. But the whole age is 
upset : in England everyone seems interested in religion, 
but the protestant Churches seem to be down and out, 
living only on music and stolen shreds of Roman Gatholi- 

LETTERS 1926 229 

cism : even in Ireland Catholicism appears (as in other 
Catholic countries) to be at last dying dismally, but it's 
flourishing like old boots in England : sometimes I think 
it will just be a swap : all Catholics becoming Protestants 
(as a dignified form of bare One-Godism) and all Protes- 
tants becoming Catholics by the need of the Protestant 
mind for clear-cut systems, and also by reason of some- 
thing slavish I can't help seeing in the English : the things 
the people here suffer, grumblingly but resignedly, as- 
tonish me ; things which in Ireland from time imme- 
morial even to to-day have meant gun work. 

Of course I don't know how much Hebrew you know, 
but from my own experience I say that to me Arnold's 
ist. Book with key, supplemented by Bythner's Psalms 
(many transliterated in the Voice), makes the best kit for 
one either beginning or wishing to revive. I wish I had 
time to go on with this 'Brew. I liked it well : I like the 
very sounds of the words and the turn of the idiom. That 
old duchessy book, by the way, is a pure codd : there 
never wasn't no such duchess. 

Good luck ; let me know when the keg arrives. 

S. M. K. 

4 6 




[Spring, 1926]. 

DEAR E. Yes I got the book : stiff, much too stiff, the 
price but good to me to have : between the Imitation, 
O'Gallaher, and an occasional page of O'Conaire, I read 
my Irish 5 to 10 pp. nearly, all but, every day : God 
knows why I don't let the Irish die in me but I don't, 
can't : 1 always havefor one thing the idea, which 


would mate Bergin snort, of one day quite suddenly and 
gan f hios dom f hein * blossoming out into a Irish Essayist. 
Anyhow this bee has built his nest in my bonnet and nil 
leiyeas agam air. 2 No fool like an old Gael. 

I'm delighted you spoke of me to Dr. Purser he's a 
dear good lad. Which reminds me what a dishonest old 
fellow that O'Gallaher was and, tho' I maintain writing 
a most admirably useful Irish, what an utter imbecile. In 
nearly the height of the heroic Penal days those Donegal 
peasants were all pouring hourly, screaming, into hell : 
" the very sacrament of penance instituted to save 
sinners " their devilish iniquity " turned into the poison 
of their souls " : I wonder all Donegal didn't go forth in 
procession to their Bishop and solemnly cut their throats 
in his presence : I suppose they didn't take him seriously : 
I take it he was mad : all good writers of Irish are. 28 
out of all T. C. D. doesn't seem a huge Iresian congre- 
gation ? 

The man of the house is ill, writhing and groaning in 
my front room, with sleepkilling rheumatisms we're not 
able to test the squeejee : 'twill need retuning and the 
bellows recasing, as it's weak on the outpull : I haven't 
been able to take it to the orse piddle yet : been well but 
not very well. My book finisht all but to correct the last 
typesheets which the typist won't emit : I have engaged 
a menial to correct the proofs ; a job below my jenius, so 
I've already begun on the ouf volume., i.e. the last. 

If you ever be on Grafton St. thank the Harris boy for 
me : I liked him well tho' I had some bitterness against 
him I forget what. I find I like all Jews and they invari- 
ably love me and run about picking up my pocket hand- 
kerchief. " Hear o Israel," I suppose. Poor dear Daniell, 
who's one of the mellowest wisdoms in Dublin and the 
affectionatest loyallest heart, is bitterly grieved over my 
apostasy ; writes me like a father, or more like a mother 

1 Irish, " unbeknownst to myself." 
* Irish, " I have no cure for it. 

LETTERS 1926 231 

and aunt ; it never occurs to a Catholic that one changes 
not of a lamentable devilry and deliberate malice but out 
of a stern conviction. And they'd all far rather you 
became a mere awful " free-thinker " than attached your- 
self to any full-blooded religion : I suppose, to do them 
justice, they know by experience that many unattached 
free-thinkers yell for the priest as soon as they get a pain 
in their belly, whereas if you're attached you're for ever 
beyond priest or prayer. But then, to do them an in- 
justice, they never reflect that the intermediate space 
between the apostasy and the final pain of the belly was 
spent, presumably, in the contact, or on the fringes, of the 
Divine ; whereas the other dog has sat like a politician 
on the fence impartially spitting on ail the spiritualities. 
All those who deplore a change of religious profession are 
thinking of religion not as a devotion but as a magic : it's 
obvious that to change implies a devotion, tho ? of course 
there are many devout that need no change. 

Well, youth, be young and gay as I say to John, who 
likes the phrase and corrects me vigorously when I say 
" young and strong." 

S. M. K. 





[October 15^, 1926], 

MY DEAR LIAM, Pm wondering will you ever forgive 
me. I've been in heaps of trouble and worry and affairs. 
My new vol. is out : I buried my mother a fortnight ago : 
I have been flat with lumbago : I have been trying to 
settle in a new house a mud cottage really but very 
pretty which I'm hoping you'll perhaps visit for a week 
in the Spring or Summer in a new mud cottage which 


won't settle itself; and in 20001 other ways have been 
driven off my chump. I have written to no one at all save 
to some 600 (amongst them I hope and believe yourself) 
to say that I can't write but will. Yours is the first letter, 
if it turns out to be one I'm cold and tired and old to- 
nightwhich I will have written in the dear knows how 
long. Yours to me unfortunately is for the moment mis- 
laid all my books and toys are still in a chaos : Plato 
glad to rest amid a pile of American detective magazines, 
and the A.D.M.'s trying to look as if they enjoyed this 
Highbrow Companionship. Of yours I remember for the 
moment besides its friendliness and the pleasure it gave 
me only that you asked for a book whose title I forget 
but I know the one, an interleaved vol. giving Anglo- 
Saxon equivalents for Latin-root English words and that 
you honoured me with a question as to style. The book 
is mislaid like the 1999 other sheep which arc lost but will 
certainly one day come home carrying their tales behind 
'em : you'll have it. 

On the style question, I can't imagine anyone asking 
himself shall he Keatingise or O'Learyisc or Liam O'R-ise: 
one must Liam O'R-ise : there's no other way : but as 
Plotty says, a Man is a Multitude : one must choose 
within that multitude the particular L. O'R. whose style 
is most suited to the subject matter. There's the L. O'R. 
who makes a joke with his babe, and the L' O'R. who 
beats his breast before his God, and the L. O'R. who talks 
betimes, perhaps with entire reverence perhaps with a 
touch of irony, to the great (or greater) ones of the earth ; 
there is the L* O'R. perhaps of grave public speaking. And 
many more. Among all these one chooses first the one 
generally adapted to the subject of writing, and secondly 
those (as they suit) that play in and around this main one ; 
they are to vary the L. O'R. of the chosen general style 
lest he become a solemn old bore if he's generally to be 
solemn, or a nauseatingly slangy jaunty cheapjacky 
buffoon if the general theme is light. 

LETTERS 1926 233 

But all style must be modern : Plato was modern to 
Plato, the Bible to the prophets and narrators ; and the 
Lord Christ spoke the Aramaic of those cornfields and 
lakesides and of the fishermen by his lakes. Any " archa- 
ism " is to be spewed out of the mouth or the : a 

horror, a folly, all the stuff in which all the Jebbs " trans- 
late " go vforraiye dia orainn l Sophocles. The " Thou 
wottedst notedst " style is not forgiven in heaven or on 
earth, and no fires will purge it. If your stuff is high and 
fine, read a page of Ruskin every day before working : 
think in your own Irish in that mood of care and of 
rhythm, and you'll produce an Irish style worthy of your 
theme : if your matter is light, read a page of Shaw, then 
think your own Irish to your stuff ; you'll be clear and 
fresh. I knew a good writer of English, Vance Thompson, 
a dear good drunken brilliant friend of mine, who always 
read a half an hour in French before writing a page of 
English : he chose his French stuff in the general line not 
of his stuff but of the mood of the stuff. Perhaps even better 
than Ruskin (as above) would be a good page or two of 
Wordsworth, the Sonnets (sublime) or chunks from the 
Prelude intoned ; aloud ; or rather softly voiced : that's 
a superb style, nearly all utterly simple and utterly grand. 
In general if I were able to write Irish, the only linguistic 
effort I'd make (supposing I had a rich vocabulary of 
familiar words we must only very rarely use unfamiliar, 
and then only in a careful context to explain them), the 
only thing I'd do by way of burnishing my style would 
be to aim at all the terseness which the ordinary use of 
the language to-day would still leave clearly and quickly 
intelligible. * * * * Terseness and the avoidance of 
friction on the readers' minds, these and a general plan 
of drawing on the L. O'R. whose mood is most nearly 
that of the subject matter that's to my mind the only 
planning one wants for the dressing of a book. I'd use 
old Irish authors, never as models of general style or for 
* Irish, " God help us." 


words, but simply to suggest to me methods of phrasing which by 
analogy ought to be in the language of to-day, which, that is, 
are sufficiently carried and explained by things still in the 
language : even here of course one must be careful : it's 
as bad to be too ancient in phrase-mould as in actual 
word ; or, not only too ancient, but too persistently terse 
and laboured ; the great rule is I suppose this : " with 
a dignity adequate to the subject and its mood to avoid 
(or minimise) friction" H. Spencer's great contribution 
to the question of style. 

I'm afraid there isn't much help in this, but 'tis the best 
a cold brain on a wet and fireless night provides. Perhaps, 
to be very practical, a good method would be to say to 
oneself " Here I'm to address a public meeting : I'm not 
to be too trivial, I'm not to be too pompous : I'm to be 
grave, yet not heavy or obscure, I'm to hold my audience 
in so far as it consists of people up to the level of this given 

You ought to get someone to buy the new Epictetus in 
the Loeb Library and to put it from the English into 
Irish : admirable stuff of a very Irish type to my mind* 
Long ago I hoped to put it into Irish myself from the 
Greek ; but alas my Irish was always below all the 
belows, the supreme joke of the universe and I toiling for 
it as few men for virtue ; had I but served my God half as 
faithfully as I served the Irish that left me with a ton in a 
poll 1 as the result. . . . 

Dear Liam I continue to think of you with every 

S. M. K. 

Have you any official address ? Permanent and easy ? 
I never can remember your road or gardens. Give me, 
always, something quite simple Leinster House ? 

1 Irish, " backside in a bog-hole." 

LETTERS 1926 235 

4 8 



BOURNEMOUTH [October, 1926]. 

DEAR BOSS, The A. E. article in the I. S. 1 may amuse 
and encourage you, as it did me both. A. E. is incapable, 
for any affection, of paltering with his standards of style ; 
but I suppose his amazing paeans are really for the 
glamour of the name Plots., deluding him into the belief 
that the stuff is in that high quality of English. One of 
the comicalities is that at least part of his second extract 
is a thing over which I sweated and wepted and cursed, 
and finally gave up to stand as it stands, saying to me 
" Lo : man is of few days and I can't give this bit the 
i o or 15 years it requires to trim it properly for public 
promenading." Another little encouragement : Yeats, 
a friend tells me, came to London, glided into a bookshop 
and dreamily asked for the new Plotinus, began to read 
there and then, and read on and on till he'd finished (he 
has really a colossal brain, you know), and now is preach- 
ing Plotinus to all his train of attendant duchesses : he 
told my friend he meant to give the winter in Dublin to 
Plotinus. To catch two such fish no cods at one throw 
is wondrously bucking-up. 

For the rest all is ill news : the brilliant promises and 
actual unreliability of the English have me in a mess : 
they make holes in my walls on a Tuesday, a window or 
door to follow on Wednesday : on the Wednesday-6-months 
there's still a hole and a mud heap, but divil a door or 
window. They promise that a week will see Plotinus my 
book-shelves out up, and 2 months pass and I'm still unable 
to pick out Plato from a nest of American detective maga- 
zines ; pantry shelves are to be ; but, weeks after, I'm 

1 Irish Statesman. 


still poking my tea with clarinets, unable to find on the 
non-existent shelves the tea spoons that aren't there. 
Worse still, I have had languors and ferocious headaches : 
progress there has been, but very slight. God help me, 
I'd be wishing I were dead, and only for fear of Plots. I 
think I would be : it scares me to think what he'll say to 
me if we ever meet. 

I see that A. E. Taylor, of whom I spoke to you re 
Plots., is one of the collaborators in a new book with a 
title something like " Catholicism & Criticism," an 
Anglo-Catholic apologetic (or defining) work just issued. 
A superb brain and an immense knowledge : yet there 
are still people who think, or say, that it takes an ignorant 
and an imbecile to make a Christian. It's true this is no 
argument for Xtianness : it merely disposes of the notion 
that Xtianity is for children and savages : no argument 
for Xtianity, since Conan Doyle in his own sphere is 
certainly highly intelligent, and yet the things he believes 
I never see his name now without loathing. 

About three weeks ago I buried my mother : a certain 
considerable upset, tho', to be quite frank, an emotional 
indifference, blank : I'm amazed and horrified to sec 
how little or nothing such a death has been, compared to 
the devastating effect of others lately that ought by all the 
canons to have been of much less grief : a wife I suppose 
should not count like a mother, still less aunts who are 
ever matter for comedy. This change, releasing me from 
a slight financial obligation, again complicates the Ploti- 
nus accounts : there's another matter too, just risen, 
which may make a difference : I begin to hope I'll finish, 
if I can work at all, without any subsidy. I'll talk of all 
this when we next meet : but do not send for me yet 
awhile : I'm quite unwell, quite lifeless and reeling, again. 
Nothing like as bad as I have been, but incompetent, 
muddled, nervous ; ferocious headaches, besides head- 
aches not so ferocious but constant (which is worse I find). 
I wonder can you read this scrawl : I loathe bad writing 

LETTERS 1926 237 

myself: but I can't find or disinter my typer and so 
venture the scribble. ^ ,. 

Cordiall y> 





[December 31^, 1926], 

DEAR MRS. DODDS, It was good indeed of you to think of 
me and send me those pleasant greetings and I far away 
so long. Heaven send, by the way, that I find your card 
before my death. I have no memory for addresses or for 
the place where I file things so carefully away, in what 
seems always at the time the ideally memorable place and 
always turns out to be the most indiscoverable : I think 
I shall venture 41 if I don't find the real thing, the docu- 
ment. I'm still moving, tho' I'm in this place since the 
summer : one chest of urgently needed books I did in a 
flash of genius put to itself : all the rest is the most dis- 
couraging huddle : a man needs at least one wife to keep 
him straight, and I have none. But a lovely place I look 
actually on a sunset 4,0 miles off (I'm told 40 : make it 30 
if you like) from my verandah windows on which the 
putty marks still blur the view. On the other side I look 
on my own acre, desolate for January but still haunted 
by birds of all sorts and some others, the divils they even 
woke me at some preposterous hour in the morning to-day, 
the last of the year ; a sunray that lied to them and told 
them 'twas Spring, and they praised God and set me 

I like Bournemouth a delightful 3 miles walk away 
'tis a meditative place, all green quiet 3! seconds at any 
spot from the hubbub, which doesn't hubble or bubble 
much at its hubblcbubblest Except of course in the 


summer when we decent residents hide in our gardens and 
damn the trippers whose ways in sooth are noisy, being 
as they mostly come from the North of England whose 
accent is not soft like ours and whose eye not calm. The 
accent and eye here often remind me sadly of Ireland 
even the face and I mentally pack myself and go now : 
but I always wake up in Bournemouth, and here I imagine 
I shall die, perhaps never seeing Ireland again save from 
beyond the flaming walls tho' indeed often I hope 'tis 
all rest, from all seeing and hearing and striving. I hasten 
to add that on the whole I don't believe 'tis so, but think 
we shall still be pegging on : I make my only, now, act 
of faith or rather of trust that somehow all is a good story 
with a happy ending, some celestial marriage bells for all 
of us somehow thro 3 all the failure and folly and farce 
3 f 's, I observe : I suppose a lot of our thinking, as we 
think it, is sheer verbality, alliterations and personifica- 
tions and sorry, I can't think of the last term of my 
trinity : I suppose because I have given up trinitising 
the divine and yell Allah is one and we're all of us his 
prophet. A ram&s, 1 all this : yes, but a thank offering if 
you can read it no one can I find, but I daren't type- 
write this to you and besides my Corona is wheel-less since 
I don't know how to stick the new wheel on and I have no 
man to show me. 
A thousand good wishes and most cordial thanks, 

8. M. K- 




[? January 1927]. 

BEAR MRS. DODDS, I wouldn't inflict myself on you so 
soon again but for the zeal of the neophyte* I still feel 

1 Irish, " rubbish." 

LETTERS 1927 239 

obliged when questioned to give my answer on my Uni- 
tarianism. MacRiovaig l my good friend was of course 
quite right : I am it and hope to live it and die in it and 
if necessary be damned for it : if it isn't sound, it ought 
to be, since 'tis the foundation of all religion and the 
entire substance of many religions, or systems of approach 
to the divine, from the time of Plato and Plotinus and 
before them and after them, and is the entire substance of 
Judaism, bar the Torah, and of Buddhism plus only, chez 
nous, a more obvious God. I want to convert no one to 
it who has already any deeply felt religion, however 
absurd that particular form may seem to me, tho* I do 
greatly wish that everyone that has no religious attach- 
ment but has the religious sense or feels the religious need 
would listen to its pure and simple tale : no fairy tales, I 
mean by that " simple " : just one God, a just and 
fatherly. I miss, sickly, the gorgeousness and symbolical 
depths of the Roman Rite but could not, in intellect and 
in conscience, listen to its minute cocksureness or accept 
its practical tyranny or even respect its minor devotions, 
made so important. I greatly dislike, with all respect, 
any talk of" taking one's chance " and the like : religion, 
always very deep indeed with me, has never (in all my 
waverings and half certainties and rewaverings and now 
final satisfaction) has never been an insurance against 
peril in this world or another but simply an intense 
desire after goodness in myself and in others, and also a 
craving, morbid at times, for something like union with 
the divine in whose personality or some super-corre- 
spondent to personality I have always believed. This 
union not at all in the sense of the mystic achievement : 
that doesn't tempt me one red cent's worth ; but in the 
sense of being worthy, being high so to speak ; in fact I 
don't know how to speak just I suppose as certain heroic 
souls have wanted to serve their country, artists their art, 
hobby-imbeciles their imbecile hobby. I want also every- 
1 Thos. McGreevy. 


one to be good, not under compulsion and not in any 
yellowfaced gloom, but by sheer delight in the beauty of 
goodness and with the clear understanding that part of 
goodness is being quite freely gay and using quite freely, 
quite enthusiastically, all the arts and devices of gaiety 
beer for those who like it and abundance of jazz, and in 
fact everyone to his taste, only he she or it to keep one eye 
on the divine, not in fear or in frowning but in all good- 

I don't pretend of course to approfondir my religion 
here, only to utter my little credo like a little gengkleman, 
as Pd do at the stake if need were, crying " My children 
let yous all practise your little superstitions if they console 
you or keep you fairly decent : I cannot : but there's one 
God, and every man may be and should be his gay 

You ask kindly after my work : 'tis my heartscald, 
would God it would be my death. Tis too hard and high 
for me : gin I but grind at it two hours, I get a headache 
like a slow furnace and reel like one that has quaffed off 
the winecup I doubt will I ever finish it, tho' most un- 
happily I'm so situated, on many grave counts, that I have 
to keep pegging on, trying until my brain frys and I long 
to be quietly dead. Otherwise my life is happy here : I 
seem to have given you a false impression ; no grandeurs : 
but space and peace and freedom and delightful medi- 
tative walking, all round my mudcot (save where the 
villagers pile their dreadful heaps of dead salmon tins and 
broken glass and leaky kettles and Daily Mails by choice 
just at my shrubbery gates). 

Herewith, then my confession and thanks. Your card 
turned up lovely : in all my half century of turning over 
pictures and pictures I never fell on that most decorative 
swell on his noble steed the fresco of Simone Martini, if 
you remember your own bounties. 

Most sincere good wishes, 

S. M. K. 

LETTERS 1927 241 



April 5, 1927.] 

DEAR BROTHER, If you can't get your W. L. 1 in time 
for your soul's peace, I'll send it to you on the wind of the 
word for return at your convenience. I wish you would 
(and hope you will) do the Odyssey here. It has never 
been done : that bastard stuff of Lang and somebody is 
an abortion may a bastard be an abortion ? and 
Butler's is irritating. I don't know about the Brook 2 ; it 
didn't flow so wondrously to me ; but all classics should 
be translated in absolutely up to date word and rhythm 
the best of course, the most nobly appropriate one of my 
dreams is to do a New Testament as true to the very nobly- 
appropriatest style of to-day as I suppose the Authorised 
was to its date. Such a thing as 20 years ago a man would 
do who had soaked in his Pater and Arnold and Ruskin 
and Meredith ; and to-day but I don't know modern 
authors. . . . 

I'd love you to be sweating at the Odyssey and I reading 
after you : I've always browsed off and on there, and 
would like to know it line by line, word by word, before 
I'm called to Homer's bosom. Really very funny to think 
that if things are true they tell us, there really is an identi- 
fiable Homer beyond the Flammantia Moenia ? I often 
wonder is there a real Plotinus and he lowering at me. 
Dreadful eternity for you and me, being chased by in- 
furiated originals through the corridors of Heaven for all 

eternity " Let me at him, the dog ; the ass ; the ! ! " 

A purely and merely original writer of course has the best 
of it : critics and translators will be the hunted. 

This is not for a reply unless you need The Enemy. I 
find that others made the mistake 3 : yesterday I read an 

1 The Entmy, by Wyndham Lewis. 2 The Brook Kerith ? 

8 Of confusing the two Wyndham Lewises. 


introductory article in which W. L. castigates his name- 
sake for not forsaking his name and for being confounded 
by idiots with the only real W. L. Only a week ago a man 
asked me how I managed to write my novels so far from 
the life I depicted so brilliantly as if I looked like a novelist, 
and I with the innocent mug of a village parson and fre- 
quently seen on the roads patting a baby on the cheek 
with an oil can in one hand and a new kettle in the other 
and a parcel of butter and tea and sugar hanging by a 
string from my teeth. But some people have no imagina- 
tion any more than I have any teeth a man wrenched 
mine out one day [and] charged me 1 1 guineas for a new 
set which I can't wear them and so have had practically 
to give up playing the clarinet which like the only true 
Church will not be ministered unto by any maimed 
person or for some curious reason which I forget by the 
son of a butcher, yet Wolsey was a Cardinal and the son 
of a b. ? I must have mixed my drinks. 

Well Goodbye, 

S. M. K.. 




BOURNEMOUTH, September 1927. 

MY DEAR LIAM, I'm often wondering why we never 
have words now. A fat packet from Dublin to-day looked 
like your fist, but turned out to be a very different wad of 
stuff ; it serves however to produce these few, probably, 
words which hope very much that you'll reply to them as 
of old. I have little to say, and am rather hoping that you 
will make the correspondence which it would cost me to 
lose. * * * * 

I was astonished at the strength of Devalerism at the 
polls ; what it really means I can't imagine ; if it implies 
that the people are not wholly resigned to Britonism I 

LETTERS 1927 243 

can't but rejoice, tho* on hearing of the oath-taking, after 
all the blood and wreckage and bitterness, I registered the 
sentiment that we are for ever a race of brutes, dishonest 
in the bone and brain, unworthy of any place in the world 
of earnest truthful men. Had they taken the oath in the 
beginning Fd have felt it bitter but understandable and 
possibly pardonable ; but now. . . . Yet as I say, to 
know, or to have some plausible indication, that we are 
not for ever sunk and swept away from the ancient hopeful 
tradition is a mild joy. 

I'd like to know what appears to you the probable issue 
of this curious state, first of the popular mind and secondly 
of the parties. Are the people, the huge Republican 
voting strength, really in earnest as against the Prince-of- 
Walesification of politics ? would they stand for more 
trouble which I confess I don't want, but shrink from 
like a Quaker or do they merely register an academic 
protest, a declaration of faith felt to entail no conse- 
quences ? And what can be expected to happen ? can 
any government be formed that can actually perform ? 

Glad to hear also how you all get on, you and the whole 
little teileach l (however you spell it) ; also of the Lan- 
guage does it move, does it linger, does it die ? I still 
read at her nearly daily ; an act of homage, academic, 
since three thousand to one I'll never hear her spoken again. 
" Well, God be with you, my dear Liam, now and for 

dm M* &* 




BOURNEMOUTH, September 1927. 

DEAR YOUTH, This is a bare line to thank you ; yours 
was a relief; I have nothing worth while to say, but I 
grieve when I feel my very few friends are slipping away 

* Irish, " family/' 


and so I write desperately out of my dumbness. My 
brother x is getting much better ; perhaps Fll soon be 
able to ask you to give me a week ; if he finds he can't 
stand the cold hell probably winter in warm islands with 
the idea of toning up for work again ; he is strong of brain 
but feels unhappy unless up to the eyebrows in ores and 
machines and jungles with lions and boaconstrictors in 
them. His idea of a passable life is to roar, scientifically, 
at niggers from dawn to dusk then to eat a large dinner 
with good wine then to bed till the next dawn ; of course 
men who do this sort of thing do a great deal of thinking 
as well ; but that is incidental ; they don't understand a 
life of which dreaming or thinking is the staple ; they call 
it footling ; which perhaps it is, 

I told you I couldn't write : 'tis a cold night after a day 
of the most radiant sunshine, during which I felt it a sin 
to do a stroke of work and G. saved me from falling into 
that, but now I'm exhausted de varr mo a Virtue and hang 
it yes I will go to bed the only true Refuge of Christians 
and even Unit-Arians but I waste my jests on you. You 
don't know the Litany of the Blessed Bergin 3 and don't 
know a Umt-Arian from a Cabdiste 4 ; a man should 
become a Papist in order to understand my jokes of the 
First Period and then be converted to the only Truth to 
grasp them of the Second. To-morrow I MUST work ; so 
I fear this is all you'll get for my penny, or 3 halfs, unless 
I find an idea for five lines between slices of Plotty, who 
goes on not producing himself tho', most days, I toil at 
him as better men at the guitar. I'm quite honest by the 
way and quite unconvertible on that point. I'll tremolo 
melodies on it till the day I die, fondle it, love honour but 
not obey it ; I'll never again play the simplest piece 
written for it, unpieceful pieces they all ar v c and I an old 
man with his soul to make. J G. bew.v. 

* / * S M K 

1 John MacKenna, a mining engineer, who had come home on sick leave 
fzom Africa. 
* Irish, " by reason of my." s Prof. Osborn Bergin. 4 Irish, " cabbage.** 

LETTERS 1927 245 






BOURNEMOUTH [October 1927], 

DEAR STEPHEN MCKENNA, It is written that I'm to be a 
nuisance to you. I don't quite know why reluctant to 
appear to force myself upon you I feel obliged to let you 
know that Mr. Aylmer Maude has a rod in pickle for you. 
Which rod should be pickled for me. AE in the Irish 
Statesman 2 mentioned a story about Tolstoi seen en 
gentilhomme in his woods but opening his door much 
later en moujik I wrote as " M" saying this was so, that 
Michael Davitt and myself were the observers, the waiters 
at the door. 3 Mr. Maude challenged AE who with my 
permission gave him my name, the unhappy name, cause 
of all our woe : Mr. M. now writes AE that he'll talk to 
you about it at the next committee meeting of the Authors' 
Society. A very odd thing not relevant but very odd 
surely is that Tolstoi told me on a second visit about 
two years after the massacre at the Winter Palace that 
you had visited him not long before. It is written. 

I think I'll write myself to Mr, Maude to clear the 
matter up as regards your perfect innocence but I'm 
ill and loathe controversy and perhaps will not find the 

Don't worry about this letter : the sole idea is to pre- 
pare you : probably you arc friends anyhow and will 
laugh together, or swear together, at me. Of course the 
facts are as I gave them, be the explanation what it may 

Long life in glory to you. 

s. M. K. 

1 The novelist. 

* October x, 1937, under the pseudonym of *' Y* O." 

3 See Memoir, p. #4, 


I suppose at the back of my mind is the idea of apologising 
to you : I do really feel ashamed that you should, not once 
or twice, be whacked for my sins : the funniest fact about 
our nearness of name (I can't spell homonymity (?) with 
any certainty) is one you'll never know : that ought to 
tantalise the imagination of a novelist. The scene was 
Vienna. I think you ought to put us in a story. 





BERKSHIRE, s&th October, 1927. 


understandings that bring me a letter from you, as I 
rejoice in the great underlying delusion that I am or could 
ever be capable of translating Plotinus. From the con- 
fusion that periodically arises, it is I who get the ha'pence, 
you the kicks. To rise, between novels, to philosophy is 
accounted to me for grace ; but to lapse from philosophy 
to novel-writing can be doing your reputation no good. 
I should like to think that there are material solaces and 
that you receive volumes of poetry from voracious novel- 
readers ; one such reached me this summer, inscribed 
with the name of" the brilliant translator of Plotinus/ 9 

The Tolstoi story is delicious ; and I hope devoutly 
that " AE " has not overdone his part of peace-maker. 
I should love to be rated by Aylmer Maude when for 
once my conscience is clear. I expect to be meeting him 
in ten days' time ; and, if he docs not introduce the 
subject, I think I must. 

I am very sorry to hear that you are ill ; but I should 
like to think that, as you are now in England, there was a 
chance of our meeting, I shall be spending my week-ends 
here and my mid-weeks in Lincoln's Inn until the New 

LETTERS 1927 247 

Year, when I have to go south ; and it would give me 
very great pleasure if you said that you would have a meal 
with me sometime. Tantalizing as is the untold tale of 
Vienna, this rare exchange of letters is more tantalizing 

Alas, you give me no details of my visit to Tolstoi ! If 
I knew what part I had played, I would play it again for 
Maude's benefit. I suppose you are a fluent Russian 
scholar ? Have you ever considered what a fortune awaits 
the man who will translate the worst English novels into 
that language ? They would all be translated back into 
English and their authors would win fame and wealth. 
With every good wish, 
I remain, 

Most cordially yours, 






BOURNEMOUTH \0clober ZQtk, 1927]. 

A CHARA YIL, Mr. Maude, for whom I (at a distance) 
have always had the hugest respect, appears now (by 
what AE tells me) to believe my story and simply says 
there must be some explanation of it, a thing I never 
denied. You'll probably get off fairly lightly. If he 
doesn't raise the matter, I'd be inclined to ask you not to. 
But of course please your soul. 

I gather from your letter (dimly, for I'm immeasurably 
dull and uncertain and see most things, including Plotinus, 
through a glass darkly though I don't drink at all) that 
you didn't call on Tolstoi : this is the comble of this un- 
ending farce a sort of 50 years Chinese Play T. evi- 
dently mistook me for myself, and I mistook myself for 
you. We're quite too impossible to go into a book : that 


(really " delicious ") Vienna story, quite unprintable, 
unspeakable, soiling the soul in the very thought of it, a 
series of things that no decent person would even under- 
stand, alas it must die : and the other thing, quite drably 
decent but comic, that happened in Pembridge Gardens 
Bayswater perhaps we'll meet in heaven or hell (I think 
you've cut Purgatory out of the scheme of your life ?) and 
tell all and laugh. Lincoln's Inn sounds nearer, but it 
really isn't : I value the genial kindness of you, but I'm 
far more likely to meet you in other and foreigner parts : 
Fm a nervous wreck, as 1 fear my handwriting shows (and 
bad luck to it I'm too nervous either to repair my broken 
down typewriter or to take it to be mended), and London 
seems to me far more awesome than Eternity and Infinity 
and Heaven and Hell. About these I sort of know my 
way : London is a howling wilderness full of wild beasts. 
It's true the first lot change their geography and flora and 
fauna : they used to be Roman Catholics, but they have 
become Unitarian (if you know what that means) 
drabber but a good deal more plausibler like still either 
way more friendlier than London. I invite you to a great 
colloguing in our next life : there there'll be no name 
mess : star diffcreth from star in glory : we'll be known 
only by our souls, our sins and our virtues, as they have 
toned into some fixed colour, quite distinguishing. 

Alas I can't undertake to translate the worst novel of 
the English language into Russian : Irish if you like : my 
Russian was first-rate for drosky and beefsteak work but 
wisely stopped at those essentials. Jainesy Stephens and 
W. B. Yeats once hired a Frenchman to teach them 
French together : he began with a quarter of an hour on 
the rules for the agreement of past participles : Jamesy at 
last broke in ee Excuse me, M. Dupont, what is meant by 
the agreement of the past participle ? ", and W. B. said 
" I was just going to ask you, Monnshure, what is a past 
participle ? " So was my Russian : I hired a teacher 
cum interpreter and learned many phrases from him, but 

LETTERS 1927 249 

when he began to talk to me about the I7th conjugation 
or declension or something I cashiered him and swag- 
gered about very successfully on the phrases. 
Your letter warms my heart may you never grow cold. 

s. M. K. 





BOURNEMOUTH [October %isl, 1927]. 

MY DEAR ST. MCKENNA, Many thanks : I take your im- 
plied permission and jab your letter into an envelope for 
AE. There's no doubt of T[olstoi]. I went with Michael 
Davitt, who knew T, well from former visits made at a 
time when T. and M. were both cracked over some 
mysterious " Single Tax " advocated by some " George " 
or other. Michael was grieved for days over the quick- 
change trick. 

My good friend Clement Shorter once sent me a par. he 
had publisht in his weekly, joking about the two Stephens 
sons of Enna, and among other things accusing us of 
having both been in Russia. I'm glad to know you are 
not guilty, for behold a new fun : on the second visit I 
was at first refused at the door, then by dint of sheer cheek 
and vulgar wontgoawayness saw a son (LyofFI think) and 
learned from him that T. had taken a violent dislike to a 
Stephen MacKenna, a newspaper man, who had visited 
him a few months before : as my former visit had been 
much earlier, and as I reasoned that 110 one could possibly 
take a dislike to me, I concluded it was you. Of course 
I didn't betray you : simply persuaded the son that it 
must have been some low dog of a Chicago MacKcnna ; 
and had a 2 or 3 hours triumphant talk with T. * * * * 

I imagine you've done with the business for ever ; but 
for goodness sake don't, not never, betray my address : 


the Tol. society is furious and they'd march in armies to 
conspuer me. 

Entire good wishes* 

S. M. K. 





MY DEAR B. IN T. 1 (i) The sumptuous kindness of your 
letter awes me. Dear brother, there is no such matter, I 
have no such gift. My one gift is that of loving solitude, 
and mellowing I think in it, and trying (most desperately 
though not without pleasure) to behave very sweetly and 
gaily and friendly when cast among the brethren. 

(2) I have no mission : my one great conviction (now 
that Ireland is rolled away) is one so obvious that I can't 
communicate it : you are not heard after your second 
announcement that 2 hapnies make a penny or that one 
God makes one and is worth all a man's passionate atten- 
tion. For all the rest Pm a blank, and merely play as 
prettily as may be with the ideas that others toss me. 

(3) With very great disrespect, I too think Tolstoi a 
great man though not, I admit, a great solutionist, since 
I don't think his ethic or whatever you'd call it works : 
therefore perhaps rather a great spirit, a great moodiness, 
than a great man. The very great disrespect is for the 
idea that a great man or a great spirit is necessarily or 
possibly above all fall, sure as the stars, swift as the sun in 
a bee line to the g.b.t. 2 There's a speck on everybody's 
vermine. You note how Maude, as I quoted to you, 

l " Brother in Thucydides." MacKenna had invented a Society for 
the Study of Thucydides, of which he and Magee were joint presidents. 
There were no members. 

* goal beyond time ? 

LETTERS 1927 251 

bought he observed one on T.'s : he was born to be a 
aithful disciple : there are such men : I have always, 
/vith immeasurable tender love for the human thing, a 
jood dash of the cynicism which goes with the O's and 
Miacs : Pm not Roman enough to want my saints all 
iaintly all the time, fleckless in life and miracle-working 
or 2000 years after death. Such is the rumness deeply 
nfixed in the universe that not long ago, on another 
lubject, I had to tell AE that he's too much of a Jesus- 
tian for me ; and now I must tell you that you are too 
nuch of a bloody papist. There is only one God, and not 
jven Tolstoi is quite up to that one's quality. 

(4) The sumptuous charity of you took in, I remember, 
aot only my old-age loneliness but my health also. Youth, 
*vhat does it matter? Awkward no doubt to be quite 
done if I fall gravely ill, as has threatened twice : but 
['d simply shut the placeen and go off and be nursed by 
ovely ladies at a few guineas a week. As for the ill health 
Jtat ends in death, that's the best health at all : I'm 
atterly tired, have been for years and years, and at any 
ime would rejoice to hear the ec Quick Marrrrch ! " The 
Quickest March I ever made would be in response to that 
sharp order. I consider myself quite a gay old bird, but 
this is my deepest desire if it were (which it isn't) only 
for one thing, that an ill-healthy old age requires vast 
monies, and that my income is so small that when quite 
unable to work, or pretend, and draw pay, I'd have to 
sat quite literally dry bread in a self-tended mud cot* 
Which same mud cot has vastly improved itself since you 
saw it : everybody says it's the cutest little place at all 
3f course it's full of unfinisht corners, gimcrack makeshifts; 
but the loftier a man spiritually artistically etc. etc., the 
tnore fervently he'd say " 'tis a cute little place." I take 
immense pleasure in it, more than in books or music or 
virtue* From my veranda I look through glowing 
chrysanthemums over 30 miles of sunset and moonrisc and 
star-beam and growing things, including children whose 


smile is to me the sunniest and beamiest of all and bless 

God for peace in the soul. T 

r I praise you s. M. K. 




BOURNEMOUTH [Autumn, 1927]. 

DEAR YOUTH, Thinking of you I was, intending to 
write and among other things praise you on Inspired 
Scribblings, when I get Paddy O'Sofokles. 1 A thousand 
thanks just the very thing, my pet play in my pet lan- 
guage. At the first smack it looks a little literal, but PU 
go over it line by line and probably learn from it some 
Irish and some Greek. May you live as long as So and 
A. and all good men and things. Not that I want that 
for myself : nothing surprises me more in all the world 
than to realise, from much reading of theological and de- 
votional works, how deeply the (apparently) vast majority 
want to live for ever. " Dogs, do you want to live for 
ever ? " cried King Canute V (I think) when he led the 
fragments of the Garde Imp&ialc against the Tartars at 
the Battle of Fontenoy. And the answer is We do, which 
astonies me for I don't : of course when I found myself 
nonexistent I might change my mind, but envisaging the 
matter coldly in life I simply don't know why people want 
to, any more'n I know why people want to have a yacht 
in the Mediterranean or 3 wives or revenge or the world's 
record for motoring on Drayton Beach, I'd swap all these 
things for a natural life without money worry to end peace- 
fully like the sardine tins at the gate of my cot did I tell 
you of the fine fat fragrant rubbish heap the neighbours 
are compiling at my entry ? I'm in quarrel with Lord 
Wimborne whose land abuts on mine about it, trying to 
get him to allow me to put a paling to force tie sardine 

1 A translation of Sophocles' Antigone into Irish by Father Patrick Browne* 

LETTERS 1927 253 

tins a few yards further on. The oddest thing is that the 
people who do this nasty nuisance are really, all things 
considered, the decentest people I have ever had to do 
with : they simply don't see anything unpleasant in a 
dead sardine tin at my gate. They call me Mr. Kenny 
with the softest greeting, till I'm embarrassed at so much 
genuinely tender liking, and then they visit me with these 
tins. I read a society dame complaining that after a ball 
at her house she found 55 cigarette buts ground into her 
best carpet, 233 half buried in her flower pots, 496 crushed 
into little ledges under the Raphaels and Titians of her 
parlour, and so forth : 'tis the English way. I don't think 
our people live on tinned foods ? or we'd do the same I 
suppose. t The whole moor is a mass of gorse and broken 
bottles (and pots, many of a quite improper nature) : I 
don't think we have such pots in Ireland ? Have you 
studied the pots of Ireland? We're not sufficiently 
trained in observation and you'll meet many a man who'll 
tell you exactly why Julius Caesar marched against 
Clovis or why Pope John XXVIII assassinated (or pro- 
cured the assassination of) the Emperor Theodosius and 
yet they don't know whether there are tin pots in the 
cabins of Drumdreary. But this doesn't matter much 
perhaps : the main thing is that I'm very thankful to you 
and hope on investigation to be equally ditto to Dr. 
Paddy, Did I ever tell you that I did myself a large chunk 
of this same play into pseudo-Irish? Antig. and the 
Dissertations of Epictetus, I dabbled with them both, long 
and long. These things should be done Plato too. I 
hope P. B. will go on and give us Euripides and all. A 
Gaelic Loeb would be a good little start for Irish. In 
that way we'd come in time perhaps to be able to trans- 
late even a book on wireless made simple or on motor 
cycles : those two I have, the man that would put them 
into Irish would be God. 
J. Stephens comes to me for a week to-morrow. 
Cordially thank you. 

S* M. & 



BOURNEMOUTH [? date]. 

DEAR YOUTH AND MASTER, I'm greatly touched by your 
kindness : alas I'm too poor and old and sick to travel. 
My one hope of getting my work finisht is to sit here like 
a Yogi man waiting on the divine breath : out of four 
workless, unwork-able, days there bees perhaps one on 
which I can work : to lose that were sin and shame : the 
four by the way don't represent won't-work days but no- 
can-produce days : I sit with splitting head agonising to 
tears and either I understand nothing or can reproduce 
nothing : after from i to 2 hours session I curse God and 
rise and play the guitar or clarinet or mandola or man- 
doline or mandocello or domra or squeejee and recover 
my native sweetness of universal love : so to bed, and next 
day and next may be the same : then comes the day and 
Plotinus pegs on an inch and is almighty pleased with 
himself (till there comes a killing Professor and nips him 
in the Bud, saying " dog : look at Fiddle and Fot. 1 See 
Greek Accidents p. 3,956 footnote"). Those Greek 
accidents that never happen to me ! I most cordially 
wish Greek accidents had never happened and that Greek 
were as Hittite and Irish dead and damned : then I'd be 
a thoroughly sweet-natured and happy man beating my 
domra and praising God like little Theokrite, or passing 
like Pippa, you know in the play all's right with the 
world since Greek's in its helL I hate Greek : I hate 
culchaw and all things but summer days and vast incomes 
and the thought of God. Plotinus, if some [one] else con- 
strewed him for me (and I could skip the dull proofs that 
don't prove and don't matter if they did), would be my 
friend instead of my fiend. As it is, a thousand honest 
thanks to yourself and your good bean-a-tiye, 2 but you 
must see it can't be. Very cordially, s# M< K 

* Liiddell and Scolt's Greek Lexicon. * Irish, ' lady of the house," 

LETTERS 1928 255 



HANTS, Sept. 1928. 

MY DEAR MR. HALL, Very good of you to write ; be- 
lieve it or not, I rose this morning with the idea fixed and 
urgent that I must surely write and get your news. I had 
an awful night of perpetual dreaming broken only by 
sudden wakings ; this is to say that I'll not (in this letter) 
be bright or even cheerful, despite the wonderful weather. 
That last I love, but I find it makes little difference by 
side of the mental or moral state ; in rain and cold, 
suffering physically, I'm often gay, or as gay as I can ever 
be; in this long succession of glorious days I'm sad, sad to 
death. You alone are not responsible, though you are in 
it for some considerable part. Several things have gone 
wrong, within and without ; among others, my house l 
will not sell himself, and, above all, that cursed old man of 
the sea sits heavy and refuses to go into decent English ; this 
last is a disgrace, a dishonour, though as far as I can see 
the fault is not mine save in that, most innocently if arro- 
gantly, I undertook a task far above my powers, lin- 
guistic and intellectual ; I doubt if there are agonies, this 
side crime or perhaps cancer, more cruel than that of 
literary and intellectual effort that will not work out to 
achievement. My case is made the worse in that there is 
no escape ; I am not permitted, as in the case of some 
short work that proves too hard, to chuck it and try some- 
thing else, something in a lighter style or of another order, 
little essays or sweeping a street, I'm tied till death or 

But it is cruel to worry you though why should it ? 
with my griefs and grievances when, as your letter indi- 
cates, you are not feeling too glorious yourself? Probably 

1 Vinecot. 


that is a mood ; your punishment > richly deserved, for leaving 
us where you had honour and affection and the sense 
had you but looked rightly at things that you were doing 
a work which according to your ideas was as useful as it 
certainly was successful. But this should strengthen you ; 
I understand that you worked up the Ringwood effects 
out of material as unpromising or nearly so as that you 
find to hand at Trowbridge, wherever that may be or 
think it is. As you get to know your new people your 
extraordinary power will come into play ; knowing you 
socially they'll come to hear you professionally (avoca- 
tionally) and you'll build up another stronghold of heresy. 
It is certainly a pity that your mind has not, and as I 
guess never could have, the Papistic twist ; there's no 
doubt that a believing and energetic Roman priest has all 
the material of a very happy life, happy (noble, rather) I 
mean in the sense of feeling his work alive and effectual ; 
Romanism produces in those that do believe how they 
can, Heaven knows a warmth of practice that must 
rejoice the heart of an enthusiastic prophet. But, do you 
know, that fact which I intend someday to ponder out 
as a very curious problem and body of implications 
seems to me to annul the very idea of organised religion ; 
if absurdities and inhuman grovcllings produce the very- 
most effective organisation, communities, individuals, 
then the religious idea is condemned except of course as 
a purely personal thing, varying from man to man and 
from day to day in any one man. 

I'm myself, in the midst of my gloom, working out a 
living religion for my own strengthening ; I told you that 
your departure was having that effect ; / have not been to 
the Chapel since you left and scarcely expect to go again. It took 
all your spiritual power and, allow me, personal charm 
to bring me to swallow the too minute and dictatorial 
prayers and the slushy-wushy sloppy-poppy hymns ; with 
an illiterate uninspired vulgarian in the pulpit there's every 
holy and wise reason to not go. Even with a good man 

LETTERS 1928 257 

aloft I probably would not go ; I have to make my own re- 
ligion now ; it will be a religion of waiting and prepara- 
tion, of the best action I can conceive, lighted by the earnest- 
est meditation : I cannot believe in a Godless world, but 
neither am I in a hurry to believe that God has any par- 
ticular need of me or care for me or desire for my interests 
or even for my good and assistance ; the prayers in which 
we tell G. what he is to do for the sick and the evil and the 
Kings and Cabinets and the antiGamblingers and the 
Anti-Wine-and-Whiskeyers and all that sort of thing are 
to me revolting silly and blasphemous, an offence against the 
mystery of the kosmos and the majesty of God. I believe I shall 
join Dean Inge, though he hates my sacred nation and 
spits upon my Irish gaberdine, in a kind of Neoplatonism- 
cum-Quakerism with of course a dash of Buddhism and a 
jolly humour from Epictetus ; if you like 1*11 initiate you for 
a small fee, and ordain you as the first missionary of the 
Faith ; I want to find a good long Greek term that would 
mean Waiterism I must really learn a little Greek and 
teach people under that slogan to I really think the de- 
rided maxim or nickname preaches a great truth to make 
the very " best of both worlds," to live with self-controlled 
gaiety and service here, tasting in innocence the best of 
this world but always ready to cry Adsum to a clear call 
from God. I suppose an enemy would say I have here 
simply the old Quietism ; I hate these easy namings ; but 
if it prove so, what harm ? We are all too cocksure in 
face of the mystery, too ready to impose our ideas upon 
God and tell him to watch out and get busy our way. The 
difficulty would be to induce the people to come to me with 
the essential halfcrowns to hear every Sunday that the; 
have nothing to do ; any suggestion against this difficulty 
will be welcome. 

As regards Trowbridge, if it is, I think I must practise 
my Waiterism for the moment ; I'll hope to come when 
Pm feeling less depressed and less depressing and also can 
escape without fear of missing a sell of my house ; you 


have to catch your man and get him to sign before he 
repents of his folly ; here Waiterism breaks down 
except of course for the misguided buyer. In a fortnight 
the man now nibbling will decide himself ; if against me, 
then I put the thing up to auction and at any loss cease 
to be a landowner of the County of Dorset. 
Good fortune go with you now and always : 

s. M. K. 




HANTS [Autumn,] 1928. 


pleasure to hear from Mrs. Nunn that you had spoken of 
me and of my visit to Troughbridge as something to be 
hoped as it were a good. Alas, youth, this world and its 
hopes are as Plotinus reveals one huge codd. There is 
only one good, and that is not to be bought with money 
or held when caught. I cannot entroughbridge myself ; 
if I said I would, the Grey Eternal Ironies ogled each 
other, more shame to them, and to Mr. Hardy. * * * * 
I'm obliged to go into retreat and am slowly letting my 
friends know it ; Plotinus sticks ; marching a little of late, 
his very movement makes him realise that he sticks ; he 
is ashamed ; also rude people are poking him up from 
behind : he is ashamed : therefore he has decided to 
rise early (at 8 no less) every morning, work all day and 
couch himself early like the other dickybirds till he'll be 
in fine form for the next day ; unless for Christmas week, 
say your coming (promised) or Curtis's, he'll keep to this 
so help him the Powers till he's done brown. He finds 
also that he has an enormous amount of reading to do, 
rereading all the commentaries as if he had never opened 

1 Irish and Greek, " My dear Friend and worthy Sir." 

LETTERS 1928 259 

one of them before, in the hope of arriving at some dim 
knowledge of what the he thinks he means. 

Hence, in view of the little energy of the man, no alarums 
and especially no excursions ; the eye glued on the One : 
that's the ticket. He is quite decided that this is the only 
thing to do, though it cost him all his friends and all his 
joy and all his health and all his life ; slow to make up his 
mind, he's the very devil when he does. If he ever pub- 
lishes himself he'll maybe kick up his old legs a bit ; till 
then, nixie. 

Our reporter found you looking fairly well and fairly 
pleasantly established ; so much to the good ; perhaps 
you'll get the habit of the trough into which you flung 
yourself, no man wishing it but the devil possessing you. 
In any case you are of a quality to do superb work in the 
thing in which you believe, the thing in which by the way 
I no longer believe even with the poor little spark of be- 
lief I half had. I'm definitely out of it ; I begin to think 
that all organised religions are the death of religion ; to 
me it seems that one is hypnotising oneself against the 
first act of religion^ which is thinking on the mystery of 
life and on the mystery that may (of course in one sense 
must) be behind it ; I think (reserving to myself the right 
to rethink to-morrow, though the conviction for the 
present grows unhesitatingly) I think it immoral to go 
myself or to encourage others to go where Prayers and 
Hymns and Liturgies and all the environment announce 
and enforce a certainty which cannot be truly founded. 
Even if all were as Papist Lutheran or Unitarian would 
say, do say, I think that the saying is immoral for us, since 
we cannot know that all is so or anything so ; once more 
I'm a Waiter with no one to wait on and no meats to 
present (and no tips to receive) . I detect in myself also, 
a thing Fd almost apologise for uttering to you, a growing 
hate for the very name of the founder (?) of the religions 
of the western present ; I think he or the thing that 
gathered round him has been a misfortune almost from 


the beginning ; the good associated with that movement 
would I think have grown (did I think grow) out of the 
growing or changing temperament of humanity ; the evil 
it has done in checking thought, setting rigid standards 
to morals and to extra-moral thinking, creating evil 
passions masquerading as obedience to the Revealed 
Will of God, a hundred such things this evil has far more 
than made up for any good the system contained or could 

I'm become, re-become, a sceptic : with however a 
deepened spiritual sense, more of a Listener, a deeper 
sense of the possibilities of something stirring, emerging, 
from There Back-of-things. You had something, not a 
little, to do with this ; I deeply respect your sense of the 
values of these things, while your statement of them, (how- 
ever, as they certainly are, however finely, I mean deli- 
cately, unbrutally expressed) your statement of them no 
longer would help me, however it might, would certainly, 
move me. That moving is the mischief ; I don't think we 
have any of us, after childhood or babyhood, any right to 
allow ourselves to be infected with certainties which tend 
inevitably to become rooted, to the utter repelling of any 
new light ; the new light, even if it were objectively spuri- 
ous, would always be subjectively the best, the guide ; if 
the Power behind gives us no light or a spurious light, that 
is only a part of the general mystery ; that Power cer- 
tainly has done so or let things be so done in the matter of 
physics, social systems, religions ; hence the output of 
books, all dead failures to my mind., seeking to answer in 
the Christian sense the question Was the Lord Christ A 
Failure. Quite obviously, incontrovertibly, it has not yet 
been meant that all men of goodwill should hold any one 
religion, even any one sense of what is right and what 
wrong. I forget where I read the other day perhaps in 
an old Hibbert that there is still a religion wherein it is 
grossly immoral (as lowering the standard of manly 
courage etc.) to marry a girl to a youth who cannot bring 

LETTERS 1929 26l 

to the wedding ceremony the freshly bleeding head of a 
tribal enemy slain with his own honest hands ; you, I 
think, would not approve ? 

Enough ; why this. Heaven knows ; 'tis only that I 
always had the habit of talking freely to you ; often I 
reproached myself therewith, kicked myself ; one hasn't 
much right to talk of things grave on which one has no 
intensely convinced and apparently-lasting-unchangeable 
views ; thus I never vote ; yet I prattle, which is perhaps 
still more deadly ; thus one is inconsistent and damnable. 

The main thing is to explain why I don't alarum and 
excurse, and to wish you very well always, and to hope 
if any of us is alive to see you at Christmas. 
Very cordially, 





LONDON, N.W. [1929]. 

DEAR MAN, Isn't it well I didn't what I almost did, go 
out to see you those last few days. Pd have got more 
kicks than |d's. You frighten me when you tell me how 
you're working remember what the Good Book says, 
" What profit shall a man get from his work : have ye not 
all eternity to work in?" (Hell: 6.9.4-5). Also you 
frighten me when you tell of tears plashing over my de- 
parture : I guess I'm like the once notorious Mona Caird 
of whom it was written " Mona Gaird for nobody and 
nobody cared for she." Plash, plash, let 'em splash ; I 
be d d if I care a dash. Tisn't that I haven't deep 
admirations, deep regards, cordialest good wishes ; but 
I can't splash worth a cent. As for the London suburbs, 
there'll be a cow and a tree in mine : it will be very far 


out probably about St. Albans. Where, given London 
busery, Til be as near in time to big centres as I was in 
Ringwood to a little one. I found myself getting cranky 
at Ringwood ; too narrow : I began to hate everyone, 
from the day you took your hate to us all and your hat in 
your hand and your departure to your Trough. You 
ruined me, Fd have had my chapel transferred to a 
sunny hill facing to Christchurch had you loved us still. 

As soon as I have a permanent address I'll give you it 
meantime as above (C/o Jamesy etc.) : should you come 
to L. you must let me know ; we must meet again. 'Tis 
from a room close to J. S. I'll be hunting for the new 
heaven and the new earth on a bicycle. 

There are things I really want to talk over with you 
grave matters of my life. 

Very cordially, 

S. M. K. 




LONDON N.W., July 9 %Q. 

DEAR MR. HALL, Fve been hoping to hear that you 
may be coming to London : that I may find you a room 
near by, so that at least when your business is done I may 
see you of evenings and occasionally show you some of the 
lovely walks at these doors. I hope soon to hear that I 
have bought a houseen for myself, but that's no hindrance 
to your being my guest for a week here ; I'd probably not 
move in for a month. Let me know about this. 

But here's the real matter : 

A girl (14-15) I'm interested in ; her parents want to 
send her out as a servant girl immediately if they find the 
job : I want her to have a chance in life ; I want to send 
her for just one year to a goodish school ; this both to give 

LETTERS 1929 263 

her another year's childhood with sports and irresponsi- 
bility, and in the hope that she may qualify for something 
more promising than the career of the pail and broom ; 
she's a bricklayer's daughter, which is a deadly crime. 
Now do you in your greater knowledge of the world and 
of this funny little country of yours know any way out ? 
Any school that takes Pariahs, scum, ungilded Images of 
God ? I'm willing to go this between ourselves in all 
i.e. for schooling, boarding, sports, dressing etc., just 
100 (Pd prefer less) . I could of course get the child into 
a French or Belgian convent, even into an Irish : but I 
doubt if the parents or child would be willing, and Pd 
have scruples about the religious teaching ; besides, 
these foreign holes would not really prepare her for life 
in this little country (friendships, knowledge of chances 

If there were a school, liberal, well-staffed, non-snob, 
that prepares for office work, for teaching, or for some one 
of a hundred callings of which I know nothing, Pd be glad 
to hear of it. Or would it, think you, be possible to un- 
earth some charming, liberal-minded motherly lady who 
for that sum would sort of generally educate the child in 
her (the motherly old Dame's) house ? If I were a really 
motherly old lady myself, I'd be inclined to accept such 
a chance of making an honest penny ; would I advertise 
in the Inquirer for such an old person ? Have you an 
idea in your nut ? I can't bear the thought of that little 
thing (Heaven forgive me for not sufficiently recognising 
the bricks on which she is based) being set to scrub at 
alien doors, at the age of 14 & J, when all children should 
be playing the guitar, learning how many's twice two's 
four, and how you parley voo. Later if she prefers, or can 
no other, to scrub floors and babies and doorsteps, tray 
beeang, I'll have done my best and bit, and that's that. 
But this particular Bricklayerina seems to me to be quite 
unusually perceptive, sensitive, intelligent, charming all 
commercial assets, and as I'm first and foremost a business 


man I can't see money's worth go unrealised. Think, 
consult, advise. 

I bought Rhada-Krishnan's Indian Philosophy, first 
vol. ; you'd be interested in it ; it's rather over-written 
and distinctly propagandist, pro-Indian and damn-the- 
foolish-West, but is taken to be very sufficiently authori- 
tative and is very fairly easy reading even to my muddy 
poor brain. 

Hope you're keeping well and happy and holy and rich. 

Of course I bind myself as yet to nothing : seriously 
enquiring, that's all for the moment ! l 


s. M. K. 




NEAR HARROW [New Year, 1930], 

MY DEAR PEGGY, How are you all for this New Year ? 
Especially your mother ? I greatly hope to hear that she 
is better than when you were in London. I know you're 
all busy about this time, but in a few days you must make 
time to let me know. The merest scrawl will do, if you 
are capable of such a thing. I am. Though as a matter 
of fact I scrawled no single letter for Christmas or New 
year save, if 'tis a save, this alone. On Christmas Day I 
went to chapel like a good Christian or rather Unitarian, 
ate a dinner of cold potatoes with two raw eggs and a pot 
of tea, and then went to bed and read detective stories out 
of a bundle of <$dy Yank Magazines till next morning, my 
own Stephen's day you know. The ran the ran, the king 
of all birrrrrrds, On St. Stephenses day he was caught in 
the furrrrrrze. This I'm afraid is a digression, though as 

1 It appears from a subsequent letter that the offer was eventually made 
and declined. Gf. letter 70. 

LETTERS 1930 265 

there was nothing afoot 'twere hard to digress. In fact 
I have nothing whatever to say ; I write only out of the 
beauty of my nature to greet you and wish you every 
good thing, all the desire of your heart for the new year 
and hundreds of years to come. You on your side are 
expected to wish me the end of my woes, i.e. of that 
Frightful Old Man, 1 and that I may soon go to heaven and 
there learn at last to play the guitar, the only thing in the 
world worth doing and the sole legitimate justification for 
(or of?) its creation. I have myself given it up for ever 
and for the sooth time ; yesterday having no zest in work, 
a miracle but miracles do happen, and after all work is a 
very ambiguous or triguous term, I worked like a nigger 
at the old squeegee and produced cascades of lovely 
sounds, in other words the devil of a din, the whole day 
long, swearing every five minutes that this is the only life. 
I wonder will I ever be forgiven for having given up the 
noble squeegee ; had I but served it as faithfully as I 
served that abominable and lovely fraud of a guitar I'd 
be master of it now and be sure of a living outside of the 
pubs for my old age. They call it busking, I learned the 
other day ; " he isn't no busker," I overheard ; and 
asking what it meant thinking I might have a new word 
for Plotty, who needs a lot of freshening to make him 
palatable like an aged egg I was told it meant one what 
makes a living playing the concertina outside of the pubs 
and often they makes a pound of a Saturday night ; it 
didn't seem to fit in Plotinus, at least not in the part I'm 
at now ; but it was something gained. Plotty haunts my 
mind or the place where that ought to be ; to-day, the 
newest of days, I read in a paper how Dickens went to see 
Wordsworth and being asked how he liked him said " Like 
him ? I didn't ; DREADFUL OLD ASS " ; I leaped up at 
once saying " O yes ; Plotinus ; I must get on with that." 
It's true I'd say the same of Dickens ; never have I under- 
stood how anyone can read Dickens ; I think they don't 

1 Plotinus. 


(how could they ?) ; what they do is read Dickens 
Calendars, the way good people know Shakespeare. 

In general I think we all read too much, or pretend. 
I'm always glad to meet people who with fresh person- 
ality, some interest in life, have read nothing and thought 
the more ; you can watch the very beginnings of human 
life and thought in such people ; were I to begin life again 
I'd give literature the go-by utter, and plump for science 
and hard abstract thought ; all the pretty fancies of the 
literature people seem to me child's play without the grace 
of childishness ; facts, facts, and hard thinking on them ; 
there's nothing so nourishing or so pleasant as a fact. 
Literature seems to me nothing but a falsification of 
values, a pretty-pretty reading of life, even when it seeks 
the ugly ; 'tis always aiming at the pretty, and by a sick 
desire of novelty makes the ugly into the pretty. Veri- 
tably I believe man is here to saw wood and fry beef- 
steaks, thinking the while. Though why that should be 
I don't know ; can't conceive ; the beauty of the world 
with its fundamental absurdity, meaninglessness (dreadful 
word, dreadful language the English?), this has me tor- 

An infinite lot of I in this tappery l ; forgive me ; it's 
only meant to draw you out that you may send me a line. 

Cordialcst good wishes for the New Year : 

s. M. K. 





NEAR HARROW [about January, 1930]. 
DEAR AND DREADFUL CARA, 2 When you have time (in 
a week or two) will you give me counsel, I in return 
promising not to follow it unless it pleases me ? Here the 

1 This letter is typed. a Irish, " Friend." 

LETTERS 1930 267 

matter : Do you think the famous Flight of the Alone to 
the Alone 1 is right ? To me it doesn't seem to be in the 
Greek or to have been in Pltns his mind (or his substitute 
for a mind). I think it should be the Flight (or Escape ?) 
of Solitary to (or towards) Solitary, rt Aeyst? ; 

Of course I baulk a biteen at the mere refusal of what 
has entered deeply into the romantic thought of the world 
(English, tho') ; do you think, even supposing I'm right 
in my S. to S., that that is a consideration to halt me ? 

Again, supposing I'm right in objecting to the A. to 
the A., have you any better word to present me with 
than S. ? 

To me, Solitary to Solitary has a longdrawn sigh in it 
quite as touching as the lo-lo-ness of the traditional. 

Advise me like a good lad and may you live long in 
power and glory : 

[No signature.] 


" ELDENE/ 3 


NEAR HARROW [February, 1930]. 

DEAR BOSS, A line to announce the End. All mine is in 
now. The stuff thanks of course in large part to Mr. 
Page ought to be described as highly competent, almost 
unfailingly neat (not quite ; that would take several 
decades more), at limes quite beautiful as in most of the 
sublime last Tractate, sent in to-day (where however I 
have left two, I think, weaknesses that must wait to be 
tonicked up in proof). Pm going into retreat for a week, 
to have all the poor old teeth yanked out ; after that Pll 
perhaps invite you to invite me to a poached egg, or offer 
you one, two even if you're hungry. 

Pd very much have liked to see Mrs, Dcbcnham : I 

1 Quyfy (jvw vpbs pfow, the last words of the Enneads. 


often almost went ; always got afraid ; seems as if she 
couldn't want my nervous babble and she surrounded 
with friends. But I do hope she is strong or strengthening, 
able to see the little first signs of Spring in that lovely and 
loved garden of yours. 

Mr. Page I understand is almost ready, his job has 
delayed him ; Plotinus is not the sort of Old Lad that can 
ever be hurried. Cordialest good wishes : 

s. M. K. 




NEAR HARROW [Spring, IQ3O]. 

MY DEAR YOUTH AND MASTER, Infinitely good of you : 
Pm honoured and touched : alas, it can't be. I went the 
other day to see a man and he sat me, friendly like, in a 
chair and without a word tore every bloody tooth out of 
my bloody jaw : since then I'm a bloody wound, swelling 
and yelling at every touch of wind. On Wednesday, pre- 
cisely, he has invited me again he left a bloody stump 
and is determined to get it tho' I die in the attempt. I'm 
a dreadful spectacle and a mass of pain and wish I were 
dead and in heaven playing the guitar where there's 
neither teething nor extracting of teeth. By Whitsuntide 
if I survive, perhaps you'll speak again come and see me 
to a cold tongue and a bottle of wine my little place, 
tho' still raw, faute d'argent, begins to look quite tolerable; 
the corner is pretty. 

Your idea that I toil over Plotty ! There's an innocence 
about scholars ! I'm so happy to have shuffled him off 
on B.S.P. 1 that I never look at him : I have done the best 
that is in me, a bad best, and I don't mess with him any 
more. My ideal of reading Plotty one day, the sole object 


LETTERS 1930 269 

I had in translating, or trying to, him, will never be 
realised. I can bear him no longer and will with my will 
never hear his name again. It was all a gharstly blunder 
as well as a crime, my illicit connection with this tempter 
of youth and innocence : fortunately I'm no longer young 
or innocent and I have risen like oh excuse. (I honour 
Plots. note but henceforth at a huge distance. Never 
think I don't : I do, so there.) 

Don't quarrel with me for seeming to make little of your 
kindness in thinking of me : indeed I'm touched and will 
hope for your conversation in the better days to come. 

Please offer all my good wishes to your Mother : later 
on I'll hope to call on her with permission. 

So once more a thousand thanks long life in luck to 

y u ' 




NEAR HARROW [? 1930]. 

MY DEAR SIR, Professor Dodds tells me of your im- 
passe. 1 I hope to find and send you later some little aid : 

I found of London quite absurdly useless in my 

attempts to get Mod. Greek, so too the of Paris. 

This is negative : positive is that a Greek Consul or even 
a Greek tobacconist would generally be delighted to help : 
there must be both at Birmingham ? A Greek priest is 
good : all Greeks are friendly kindly patriotic and boosty 
by nature, i.e. they like to boost their land before the 

Here too is a positive : I have a very small and raggedy 
collection of mixed modern Greek stuff grammars, dic- 
tionaries, silly stories, poems, etc, : some 3 little shelves: 

*I had mentioned to MacKenna that Austin (who was a complete 
stranger to him) wanted modern Greek books and found it impossible to 
procure any in England. 


you can have them all if you care to come here any day 
or night and take them : how I don't know : you'd need 
a motor car ? Not that they're many, but that I'm 25 
mins. from station. Some few of the books of course are 
quite good. (3 book parcels go with this.) 

I should never want them again : I have suddenly but 
finally given up all Greek, Ancient, Modern and future, 
as a sin and a folly. I was going to offer the stuff to the 
Hellenic Society here, but would greatly prefer to make 
it over to one person who might conceivably browse now 
and again. 

If there isn't a Greek Consul in Birmingham, a letter to 
the Greek Consulate in London would almost certainly 
bring you the names and addresses : so also, as a second 
resource, to 

The Right Reverend the Archimandrite, 
Greek Orthodox Church Presbytery, 

London, W. 

You may think I ought to do these things : alas I'm 
under a spell (or a permanence) of aboulie. I can only 
tell people what to do ; that I do, I ? ^ ye'votro. 

If you should think the few volumes worth fetching give 
me one day's notice and arrive : Preston Road Station 
(Metro from Baker St.) and then march march towards 
Kenton till Eldene dawns on you at a far corner. 

All good wishes. 

6 S, M. K. 

Of course whatever little stuff I send to-day or to- 
morrow is sent for keeps. 

Please tell Sir Harry 2 I'll write to him very soon : I 
have a headache and no less than two things to do to-day, 
and can't for the moment thank him. 

I have a few modern Greek gramophone records (songs 
and church music) which you could also have if you 
wished. , . . 

1 E. R. Dodds. 

LETTERS 1930 271 



NEAR HARROW, August 1930. 

MY DEAR PEGGY, I mean Miss Peggy or Miss Nunn. 
Bad news that your Mother is laid up again ; she cer- 
tainly has been tried as in a fire you too, of course. That 
unconquerable spirit is a superb asset to you both : I 
take it that the source is something in the order of religion, 
which if it brings evil brings also good. I haven't much 
myself, but do hold as an article of faith not a demon- 
strated certainty that there must be a purpose behind 
the universe and that that purpose, personal or not, is 
good. (I suppose were I forced to it by a logician I'd 
have to admit that " good plus purpose equals a Person," 
in other words that there is a good God with all entailed 
by that ; huge things are so entailed.) If I didn't on the 
whole believe in that good purpose covering us all, I'd 
certainly think it were better I had never stepped out of 
the blank, the warm nothingness, into consciousness with 
its struggles and pains : and I think I'd hold it far better 
that not only I but all human beings from Adams and 
Eves downward had there remained. In the hands of a 
good Purpose I suppose we are all secure, and I can well 
believe that the agonies of this life are nothing but a 
toothache or a childish punishment in the corner when 
considered as mere moments of discipline in our eternity. 
Of course too the idea that I'm eternal strikes me as funny, 
I can't quite take myself so seriously : perhaps it's 
optional or merited : in either case I'm out of it I won't 
choose it and Pm not likely to have earned it. Some 
Buddhist sects, I believe, hold that not only have all 
human beings the Buddha Nature but that all must one 
day attain to Buddhahood ; but this is an awful and awe- 
some teaching you have to climb some 30,000,000 stair- 


ways, each a life. Better never to be born than to sit in 
glory after such a pilgrimage. Of course, it's wisdom to 
say If it must be, be it in other words to grin and bear it, 
the largest and most broadcast grin one can pull off (or 
put on) and again of course all is really covered by the 
assumption of the good Purpose, and if one starts each of 
one's 30 million lives quite fresh and young and lovely 
their total is really just one life, just as if you add to a box 
its space and its height and its depth and the air in it and 
the sides that make it and its prettiness and its usefulness 
and its age and origin and so on of the 30 million qualities 
you could find in it I guarantee that, tho' I won't work 
the 30 million out here why it's still one box. Starting 
fresh each time, the incidents of any two such times of 
mine are as remote from each other as the joy or sorrow 
of some Chinese babe is to me to-day. As a matter of 
fact I don't believe in any such reincarnation, or serial 
rebirth incarnate or otherwise : I neither believe nor dis- 
believe with a stronger tendency to disbelieve* I pray 
only that if such things exist I may be pronounced a 
failure and let pass out into the nothingness, or the non- 
discriminated all, out of which I disastrously emerged. 

I'm sort of rambling on, contradicting myself doubtless 
at every turn : these are matters so vague and vast that 
few can see their way among them and those few don't 
agree and can't communicate their vision. It all comes 
then to my pet Waiterism, Margaret (?) Fuller's " I accept 
the Universe " : to which Garlyle snorted " God, she'd 

What a pity you didn't come to London to a tete a tete 
lunch with me when my roses were softly blooming quite 
Spohrishly ; followed by hundreds of really sumptuous 
poppies they were : but alas the poppies have all popped 
out, the roses are few and ragged, weeds triumph, with 
a few big daisies and nasturchurums to egay the scene. 
The greenhouse is a browny yellow house, everything 
withered save a few ferns : I think I'll turn it into a mere 

LETTERS 1930 273 

sunny sitting room and let flowers go to . I did have 

an idea of fish, aquarium style of thing but I s'pose 
they'd die on me too probably turn into pebbles or some- 
thing. Inside, the little house gets shapeful : in a few 
years it'll be almost fit to live in. If you hear of any music 
you want songs or guitar or other you'll let me know 
like a good little thing I mean like a Q,. Tol. Yg. Prsn. 1 
I'm wondering will you be able to read a word of this : I 
was feeling too hot to type it and I know my handwriting 
gets awfuller and awfuller. I read to-day that someone 
said to Tennyson of one of T.'s poems, " That's an awfully 
fine stanza/' and T. said, " Don't say awfully fine, say 
bloody fine." But you are wrong about your own : it's 
awfully clear not to my mind exhibiting your character, 
sort of flightier : perhaps you never write save in your 
artistic moods : I'd like to see a letter of yours to a lawyer 
or a stockbroker or a collyflower man, to see do you show 
solider, solidsenser, in such hard writings. (I wonder do 
you mind being put under the microscope and your 
pretty wings stuck down with glue on a specimen card.) 

Definitely I shall not be coming West : nothing can be 
done for my little friend 2 : she'll have to drift about in 
chance-got jobs sometimes of course such things lead to 
a solid settlement. The child is very intelligent, but isn't 
encouraged to concentrate against her own indecision. 
I'm grieved over it all, for I did hope to put her on the 
way of a good livelihood. I have to accept the Universe 
and the English temperament. They are a shiftless lot. 

I was wondering did you hear the Brahms songs on the 
wireless last week or the week before a man not very 
good, I thought. My wireless is very good indeed for 
English stations the best set I have yet heard but since 
the power changes were made I don't get France and 
Germany at all well, seldom free from London. If I find 
I can afford it I'll try next year for something that will cure 
that for me. I agree that the English stuff is better in most 

1 Qpite tolerable young person. a See letter 64. 


ways and most times but every now and then I read the 
announcement of French talks or German concerts that 
tempt me. I do listen most mornings to the French news 
from 8 to 8|-, and that's good to keep my French simmer- 
ing, but isn't otherwise interesting. My German, always 
poor, is Pm afraid gone beyond recall, save of course that 
if I need it (to steal from commentators or translators in 
matters Grecian) I can still do the trick perfectly well 
with the Greek to help me. 

Well, child, I wish you well and will always be glad of 
your news tell me some day whether you can or can't 
read my fist : if you said no I'd always typewrite. 

All joy to you, 

s. M. K. 




NEAR HARROW, October 30^, [1930], 
MY DEAR PEGGY, In your desolation you're probably 
happier than you know just for having all that worry and 
strain and doubt over the selling up, and the problematic 
resettlement. On all these matters of course I have 
neither the information nor the standing to offer any 
opinion : I'd only suggest, deferentially, very, that while 
independence is both a duly and a right it may be 
achieved in various ways and sometimes, often, by stages 
which include a certain amount of in-independence, non- 
off-ones-own-batism, a period of living with others and 
watching how the world proposes to wag. Independence 
right out may mean only a dreadful loneliness and dis- 
couragement and an avoidance of the very openings 
which secure its permanent reality. I'd in your case jump 
into the arms of any one that was able and willing to give 
harbour and solace and some acceptable occupation : one 

LETTERS 1930 275 

is always free to do a bunk at the appropriate moment ; a 
large part of the craft of life in which alas I'm no master 
but only a teacher is to fit oneself snug with a prepared get- 
away. 'Nother words take the goods the gods provide, 
with an agreement between you and them that you 
chuck all up when you damn well like. A true friend 
accepts this, honouring the personality of the friend and 
not sulking over points of difference, I mean not exacting 
all sorts of eternities of fellowship. (I know what I mean, 
but I doubt whether you will unless by an intuition.) 

As regards the religious question, Fm handicapped by 
the fact that I myself have none unless, as I do personally 
think, the sense of mystery is the essence of it, leading as 
it does to temporary beliefs and practices. Of course I 
think that anything in the nature of a definitely-adopted- 
as-for-life religion can never depend upon anything but a 
deep intellectual conviction : any other adhesion is 
merely cowardice often very pardonable but never 
meritorious or slovenliness, slothfulness same remark. 

I am assuming, in this very hasty and casual, chancy 
scrawl, the foil recognition of the huge difference between 
morality and religion. I think it not merely legitimate 
but imperative to hesitate and waver over strictly religious 
matters in fact I admire men, of whom I'm one, with a 
very different " religion " from Monday to Tuesday and 
from October to November and from 1930 to 1931 : but 
morality can't so easily or safely wait upon our moods. If 
by religion people, as often, mean really morality, an 
organised set of principles by which to guide living, I 
think a sort of shifting permanence is essential : a sort of 
permanence and powerfulness, because otherwise we are 
merely animals and cannot live with others in any mutu- 
ally satisfactory way nor get for ourselves the true good of 
life and the world, but on the contrary wreck all peace 
and all true pleasure and all fine things for ourselves and 
others ; yet a sort of shiftingness because morality doesn't 
ask reasons but acts on facts, and facts are always changing. 


When I say morality doesn't ask reasons I say a foolish- 
ness : it does, its essence is to do so ; but they are not 
such reasons and reasonings as people give in the name 
of religion : morality's reasons are for me simply on the 
question not of Who if anyone or What if anything made 
the world 3 if it was made, and what that Maker or Cause 
or Standby of the Universe requires us to do but simply 
on the question what in the existing state of the things with 
which I now am to deal the persons, their needs and 
states what am I to do, or to refrain from, to be human 
and not animal. These things, the answers to these ques- 
tions, must vary much from century to century, from 
A to B, from one order of mind or of wealth or of standing 
to another : I can't myself conceive a morality valid for 
1000 years ago being valid, of necessity, to-day ; and I 
think things immoral yesterday may well in a changed 
to-day be legitimate or praiseworthy or imperative, and 
again reprehensible in a changed to-morrow. I think as 
a matter of fact that one of the great immoralities of the 
world's history has been the effort to crystallise morals 
as has been done by all the religions (or attempted 
I should say) and tried also by organised society every- 
where. Of course morality requires a law : but it must 
be a very free law, like the laws of literature or of verse or 
of music : it must be a law I think or think I think not 
of sacrifice but of expedience and of expression : it is to 
be based on the idea of the humanness of man, i.e. that 
man is not solely or essentially an animal, can't content- 
edly be one, can't healthily be one, can't express his best 
and procure his firm and honourable happiness if he lives 
by grab and greed and cruelty and impulse uncontrolled 
as an animal mainly does. Tho' perhaps animals are 
seldom cruel : I think they seldom kill for sport or wound 
one another's little feelings as men do : I'm sure no nice 
animal does. But they do appear to live mainly by im- 
pulse and instinct : man must listen to these ; that is a 
duty ; but he has also a cold reasoning power : to 

LETTERS 1930 277 

express humanness and not animalness in his life, his act, 
he must bring cold reason to examine and modulate 
impulse and instinct even to modulate or repress im- 
pulses and instincts that somehow seem to him good (this 
often : thus I always give, for the first time, to any 
beggar ; but this is I know immoral, a bad impulse, a 
bad instinct ; the virtuous thing (Pm quite serious) is to 
address the whining tramp in a few appropriate words 
about the dignity of labour and the existence of beds and 
bowls of gruel in casual wards), and so many, very many, 
instincts which have a spurious air of goodness. 

Morality applies reason to facts, and it judges them in 
the light of existing humanity and of humanity as it may 
come to be. The only moral law I could permanently 
accept the only " you must " at all would be, is, that 
I must do that which expresses me not as animal but as 
man and helps others so to express themselves (or, since 
this is really too much to enforce, at least does not unneces- 
sarily hinder others from so expressing themselves). A 
sacrifice for any other than this motive seems to me not a 
virtuous act but an immorality, as unnecessarily hindering 
the self-expression which is a human instinct and a part, 
a large one, of the movability, progressability, of the world. 

I think that the supposedly moral hindering of the arts 
and pleasures, gaieties and whims of the world, has been 
a gross immorality : I think the forcible preaching of 
sacrifice and of asceticism (save as temporary means of 
ensuring a healthy control, a human thoughtfulness, over 
thought and act) has been a gross immorality, far grosser 
than most of the deeds which bear that name : those 
others are temporary, personal : the forced " Puritan- 
isms " have been long-lasting and of huge scope over lives, 
thoughts, arts, all the movement and machinery of life. 
I admire with some hesitation people who on principle 
and permanently suppress themselves, but have a horror 
of those bent on forcibly reforming others, unless where 
the simple necessities of communal life make it, as often, 


regrettably unavoidable. In the last case it is simply 
matter of police ; and there, while I'd make the prison 
walls high and barbed and the prison bed very far from 
downy, I'd often give no moral blame whatever : the 
criminal may often be a reformer before his time and 
without the necessary public opinion to make him a 
" plausible proposition " and a moral agent. 

I find I could scribble on, ineffectively, for several hours 
or years : but I haven't these at my disposal : in a word 
my own sense of morality is intuitional or in your word 
" based on imagination " : but I think it is an intuition 
that would appeal, at least as a valid minimum, to the 
vast majority of fairly decent humanity, say children, that 
we must act not as merely animal but as reflecting 
animals, and that on reflection we would always approve 
that which expressed a human self with no touch of harm 
to other selves and [led] to expression as far as possible 
of those other selves : Humanness plus the great principle 
of Ahimsa harmlessness that would be a very generally 
valid and generally acceptable guiding principle. Re- 
ligion is either morality or it is just an interesting study 
like the science with which it is so amazingly set in op- 
position. " Let there be darkness," says I, and there was 

A thousand good wishes 

s. M. K. 

P.S. It is ridiculous to be important about my own 
religion, but conscience will not let me end, as I inadvert- 
ently did, leaving the notion that there is no basic religion 
in me : I have no lasting cot : I float on doubts : but I 
have just one plank that never leaves me. I know nothing 
for or against God the Creator, God the Revealer (direct 
evangelist of man) ; but I do hold to a something more, 
far higher than the actual human, something to which it is 
human to aspire and to seek to translate into life individual 
and communal ; this something translates itself to me best 

LETTERS 1931 279 

as the Holy Spirit, and if I ever pray it is never otherwise 
than in the Venial Sanctus Spiritus " May the Holy Spirit 
Come " which seems for me not the law but the founda- 
tion of any law I could feel binding. With this H. S. I 
don't personally seek the mystic communion whose 
reality I neither affirm nor deny but the sense of its 
brooding in or over mankind is constant with me, and I 
have often quoted to myself as a spiritual Cou&sm, 
" Grieve not the Spirit." Waiterism or Expectationism 
or or or is only the waiting upon this H. S., being 
always ready to hear and act should it speak or order. 
This is the only true religion : I invented it myself and can 
recommend it as a solid wearing article, always suitable, 
never remarkable, warm and washable and very cheap. 


s. M. K. 





NEAR HARROW [? early in 1931]. 

DEAR x. Delightful to hear of you and of your forth- 
coming visit ; fix your day, writing or Toning, and arrive : 
I still have that cold tongue and can of peaches peaches 
to the peach you know. My garden is a norrible I saw, 
but I have four thingmabobs growing in bowls and not 
one of them threatens those insulting carrots : * also I 
have a new Lord Buddha or two. You can surely pass a 
pleasant afternoon looking at these wonderful things 
even my new electric stoves have a melancholy interest : 
I bought them fervently, burned them joyfully, for the 
first time in my life was really warm, the way we'll be in 

1 MacKenna had alleged that whatever seeds he sowed turned into 
carrots. " My garden," he writes about this time to O'Rinn, * looks still 
like a pigsty with the pig dead i.e, mud and nothing." 


the next world, and began dimly to form a sort of dreamy 
drowsy half-thought that life might be worth living, when 
by an accident I learned my bill for exactly one month, 
i.e. 3 . 10 . o enough to keep an army warm on icebergs 
for several years. I have fallen back on coal, and this 
very minute have black hands from lighting a fire which 
won't. That I think is all the news : don't roar at me 
that 'tisn't exciting : the wise man excites himself over 
little things, failing the big, lest he get stupid and resigned 
and generally a nuisance. As J. S. 1 has said, you simply 
can't have corned beef and cabbage every day. He's 
flying last Saturday, so I suppose is flown, to Paris for 
why so you suppose ? Because a Russian told him of a 
shop in Paris where music was (is and will be) to be sold, 
arranged from the 7-string Russian guitar for the Spanish 
and Ringwoodian 6-stringer : he has stax of guitarities 
that no one could ever play even with all due respect 
yourself and yet ... 

Lord deliver us from poets and from being poets. 
Which reminds me (I have forgotten that this letter is 
finisht) would you like me, if he's back with his Bolshy 
stuff, to have him here for you and that cold tongue and 
can of peaches ? He might play you something : for tone 
he's a jewel a rambling meditativeness, a subtlety of 
summer breezes, a vision of a vague Heaven (the kind 
Heavens do be) ; also he sometimes talks. Did you know 
he has publisht a poem to me, " Theme and Variations " ? 2 
He might read it to us and I blushing in the corner. (I 
would wear my red silk neckchiff to be sure of the blush, 
which is apt to come difficult at an age at which one has 
looked upon much and heard many things.) Let me 
know would you like this : he'll be back in a week * * * * 

s. M. K. 

1 James Stephens. a Strict Joy, p. 25 ff. 

LETTERS 1931 28l 




NEAR HARROW [January, 1931], 

DEAR YOUTH AND MASTER, Very few things in my life 
gave me more pleasure or at any rate more of a certain 
trembling emotion than your letter of this frosty morning : 
I still tremble over it as I scribble. Such generosity is of 
classic quality Roman . . . que sais~je. Only the other 
day I was telling Page that rereading my Plotty with the 
queerest mixing or variations of disgust and admiration 
I had found myself horror-stricken with the thought that 
I had never publicly given you an eighth of the thanks and 
acknowledgement due for your constant generous help 
over passages that utterly baffled me. 1 Over and over 
again I remembered agonies often even tears., actual 
physical, globular, liquid tears : sometimes the planning 
of the Reasoned Exit 2 via Veronal or the Irish Sea in 
places where Greek Latin French German all meant 
equally nothing to me and a word from you had clarified. 

I shall never write my silly life, 3 but if I were to I'd say 
that : Pm ashamed (tho' it was not, strangely was not, 
present to me at the time) that I never said half enough in 
thanks to you. I have not seen Squire, 4 and unless some- 
one sends him to me (as people sometimes do, I don't 
know why, such things) I probably never will : I'm 
become of a torpor, an uninitiative that would be sublime 
if it were not simply stupid. 

Yet I have rebegun on Plotty. Dr. Page has asked for 
it for Loeb : he wants apparently to publish it tel quel : 
this I have intimated delicately seems to me immoral : I 

1 Such help as I gave was in. fact very frilly acknowledged. 

a Plolinus, EtweadL) ix. a I had suggested an autobiography. 

4 Squire's review in The Observer of the completed Plotinus. 


propose to redo the whole thing : to undo some of my 
crimes under the heads of (i) Greek, (2) English, (3) Meta- 
physicsthe Unholy Trinity of my diabolism. And I a 
good Unitarian, the only living Unitarian (5 people at the 
Sunday of Golders Green a highly posh suburb and most 
of them young girls of a religious eroticism I divine and 
the rest aged colonels and repentant Manufacturers of 
China Ware with a sprinkling among the five of old ladies 
of a bossy temperament several of whom have tried to 
pat me on the cheeks as a promising youth snatched or 
snatchable from the evil life of my compeers such a dis- 
gusting set of imbeciles gathered under the divinest 
banner. . . .) 

But I don't know will I be let go on : the Medici 
edition might suffer if Loeb came out with a less abomin- 
able mess-up : and the Noble Heart Patron to whom all 
is due (save my crimes) can't bear the thought that his 
Plotinus is one of the colossal frauds of the century or the 
millenium for which we should both be stripped and 
flogged and dungheaped difficulties everywhere. 

But not this but that as we used to say in Irish I was 
for weeks writing to you at the University nearly every 
morning and I in bed planning my day, to beg your 
London address that I might induce you to come see my 
little place and never did the letter get written next 
time you're in London won't you write and tell me you'll 
sup with me? My little house is really getting quite 
pretty and snug and as I write I look over miles of snowy 
fields with real horses eating snow on them and ravens 
and seagulls aspiring to the One in great circles, fleeing 
from Matter irpos TO avo). 1 

May the One bless you and keep you and feed you and 
fatten you. 

S, M. K. 

l " to the heights." 

LETTERS 1931 283 


January, 1931], 

DEAR Y AND M, Please let me have just one word, Yes 
or no very sorry to trouble you don't you agree with 
me that it'd be immoral to republish the thing as it 
stands ? All these Eminences make me ill : the work was 
useful since no one else would do it, but it must be-ristle 
with belunders : I see some myself : the E.'s don't take 
the trouble to compare one tract with the Greek or think 
of all the side-allusions and echoes I have missed. Myself 
I feel I'd be guilty of fraud in not doing a reasonable best 
in the way of revision : I'd much rather, too, rob a bank 
than consciously rob the millions of the Perfect Plotty they 
have a right to (I wish I knew how to rob a bank : the 
way my accounts stand you'd think they robbed me). 

Just Yes or no : I don't think I'd do it even if you 
advised it, but I'd reconsider ; but I can't believe you'd 
advise deliberately putting forth damaged goods, stuff one 
can better by a year's work (the reprinting of the Medici 
thing seems to me O K : this is in quite another pussy- 

Forgive : cordially, 

S. M. K. 





NEAR HARROW [January,, 1931]. 

MY DEAR YOUTH, You're surely the generousest fellow. 
I have written declining the Loeb thing, suggesting that 
they pay for a proper text and honour me by using my 
version as the basis of one more correct* 


I have not refused to allow a cheap edition of the 
Medici as it stands, but have urged, here too, a revision by 
some competent person removing the really howling 
among the howlers. I feel I ought never to have touched 
Plotinus, and am afraid of going into eternity with that 
sin on my soul. My excuse was that I couldn't read him in 
the Greek and there was no English or even Irish in which 
I could. 

I shall hope to feed you out of my tincans some day 

Most courteous thanks for all your so long goodness and 
helpfulness. g> ^ ^ 




NEAR HARROW [May i*]th, 1931]. 

MY DEAR LIAM, A grave scandal and me without writ- 
ing all this time. But I have been down in the dumps 
wherever them bes and didn't find it in me to take up 
pen, lest also I inflict my dismalities on the young and gay. 
I read your book, the last Gaelic I think I'll read ever. I 
want to learn a little Greek before I die which I would 
God would send * * * * 

I have the greatest respect for anyone that writes any- 
thing out of his own stuaim, 1 and I unable to do aught but 
feebly retell some old Plotinus's story. I have by the way 
given up the old gentleman entirely : I began on an 
ordered book of selections, but found I'd have to re-work 
every page to meet my sick conscience, and I really 
couldn't bear that agony so I lose a good deal of money 
and am now only hoping I'll disappear into the void 
before the last penny of my capital does so. I implore you 
to take the good of my experience and, at all costs at all 

1 Irish, " genius." 

LETTERS 1931 285 

possible, make provision for yourself and your little lot 
against the time when you'll be too faded to write unless 
of course your job entitles you to a retiring pension ; and 
even then there's the family to be thought of? I imagine 
that 2 a week would do wonders at your age in securing 
such a standby for the wearier years. Of course Marie 
and I had such a provision (laid up from my European 
earnings) but it all went in her y-years illness and opera- 
tions. Forgive this advising : 'tis the privilege of years to 
preach what one hasn't practised as it is of babyhood to 
smile at the dotage. 

I daresay you'll be over in London again this year? 
You know there's a key for you here. A week of book- 
hunting would freshen you up, and you could write a 
Turns go London l and make a penny ? 

I'm still dull and find nothing to write this sad but 
beautiful day all green and grey and gloom, curious 
Japanesy colour effect, with awe on the birds who chirp 
faintly, asking " Is it the end of the world ? what's on at 
all, at all ? " A small boy playing in my greenhouse just 
said, " It's ghostly to-day, like sometimes you play on 
your guitar." A great compliment, by the way, because 
I never yet did play on my guitar but only with it it's 
like virtue : I can never achieve it, and never cease to 
strive at it. 

God be good to you. A1 A ,. ,, 

5 J Always most cordially, 

s. M. 




Sunday, October [25], 1931. 

x, Just a line to thank you for your gracious visit and 
kind help. I hope you will make as good a guitarist as 

1 Irish, " Tour to London." O'Rinn had written such a book in Irish 
about Paris. 


you are a sandwichist : I wish I hadn't been too cold and 
old to watch you make them : I'm afraid it will be door- 
steps when I have to make them myself granite blocks 
or crums idle crums. Next time you come you must 
show me. 

I hate to press you to come, but you know the sun and 
the roses and large incomes and vast mugs of tea without 
too much milk but plenty of shugar aren't more welcome 
than you : and that it's not only me but all, all blessing 
you when you will come and ing you when no. 

S. M. K. 




NR. HARROW [December 1931]. 

MY DEAR LIAM, You're certainly the forgivingest of 
humans, to write me that delightful letter while I go on 
being silent. But this very sheet proves that Pm not 
utterly damned or damnable ; so determined I not to be 
beaten in any virtue by the likes of you that I type, me 
that loathes it ; can't write failing my hands, torn, one of 
them and the best, in a motor (or pram 1 ) accident a 
fellow on a motorcycle that ran into me and threw himself, 
I sitting like a lord in my chair as he lay in the dust. I 
was pleased with this, charmed with myself for taking it 
so calmly, and delighted to realise that you may have 
many an accident and no great harm done ; in this case 
all that arrived was that the fellow got a spill, tore his 
clothes, lost a footrest for which he refused my offer to 
pay, and that I lost a bolt (jarred out of my mudguard) 
and found what was good compensation for the loss, that 
I have still nerve enough in moments of crisis. I took of 
course great care to go out the very next day for fear of 

1 The " pram " is MacKenna's motor tricydc. 

LETTERS 1931 287 

fear ; it is all long ago now, some ten days, but the hand 
which he tore with his handlebars won't wholly heal : 
thus (every story has a moral you know) I'm proved very 
noble in tapping this to you ; every tap is pain and virtue 
and merit and proof of decency and an entirely holy 

As for your article it curiously touched, very well if 
you'll forgive me saying so, on a subject much in iny 
thoughts : I have impeached the Divine on many points, 
but on none with more utter perplexity than that of 
dulness : the tragedy of life its agonies, its vices, crimes 
fill me with wonder, question : but the supreme mystery 
to me is just that strange dulness over human things : in 
a setting so splendid, so majestic, natural occurrences so 
awesome, that the total of life to almost the total of humans 
should be so petty, so no-whither, sordid houses, sordid 
streets, sordid cities, sordid days this is the miracle, the 
production of these out of such power, such sublimity ; 
how, why, the Sublimity planned, or permitted and 
therefore perpetrated, such a sordor, such a pitifolness, 
this meanest of pettinesses ; voila de quoi il s'agit in my 
mind depuis longtemps. The saddest and mysteriousest 
of all is that the little humans seem to have no need of 
anything other ; they're happy nearly all in the be- 
ginning, and they're still unwondering towards the end. 
I thought of you as I drove, timidly, thro' the traffic of 
Baling to-day those bigger suburbs have for their shorter 
length a traffic as thick and nasty as that of Oxford Street 
and saw an errand boy on a bike in front of me dodging 
in and out so gaily, so utterly happy in his skill and his 
ten shillings a week or so, his pals and his picture palace 
on payday, perhaps his girl in the offing, a couple of years 
off but dawning on him radiantly. Pleasant to see him so 
gay that's a good in itself but tragic that what's 
supposed to be an immortal soul born out of eternity for 
eternity should be gay over so little, satisfied, exultant 
even, over such nothings. 


This is one of the things that give me my constant sense 
of the tragedy of being born woman ; the Jew daily 
prayer thanks God " that I was born a male " ; a woman's 
life so kitchened, and stewpanned, and cleanupish, seems 
the very negation of the splendour of the Creator ; one 
is baffled utterly by the thought of the Sublimity that 
planned the Sun and the Seasons and the calm beauty of 
grass and trees excogitating a form of being so futile so 
petty so sordid. You don't think I mean that woman is 
f.p.s. ? I mean that woman's way, enforced, of life is so, 
so utterly so 3 so unvaried unegayed, that even more than 
the equally dull male she seems to negate the idea of any 
plan producing at such cost so miserable an issue. Yet 
the dulness, futility, seems somehow too elaborate, too 
farfetched, to be chanceriz ; here's the mystery. AE 
has a splendid poem touching this : but his solution is of 
faith ; all is a masquerade of Gods ; but why we Gods 
should make such bloody fools of ourselves as to play this 
ugly game of makebelieve, or how the idea of the pettiness 
and ugliness came into being at all for us to entertain, 
approve, consent that of course the faith cure doesn't 

Enough ; besides, my wounded paw cries and I'm 
letting my fire go out and am cold and tired and would 
build um up and take a book and bask. A thousand 
thanks and good wishes. You say nothing of Dante, 1 
whether he finds Galway gall him or gay him. I'll never 
return to Ireland ; I may move from here ; unless I can 
make money I should : I think vaguely of setting, 2 or 
selling up, and settling perhaps in a workman's cottage, 
in Cornwall perhaps, where on what is left of my little 
means I could live in my simple fashion until I die natur- 
ally ; on the present scale of living, simple tho' it be, I'd 
be forced to die unnaturally in about 5 years, faute de 
quoi vivre. 

1 George Thomson. 

8 1.. letting (a Middle English use which has survived in Ireland). 

LETTERS 1932 289 

I have said nothing about your Irish talk : were one 
still interested in Irish that were a most interesting set of 
ideas. Also I am rapidly forgetting my German which 
was simply a tool of my trade ; I'm drifting into a mar- 
vellous ignorance, forgetting as well as refusing to learn. 

Goodbye Youth, 

All Xmases to you all. s - Mt K - 




Mid April or something. 
[April i2tk, 1932.] 

x. I'm unable, unequipped I mean, yet to write to 
anyone : workmen, huddled tables, impossibility of finding 
anything, still less of not losing it again (IT means the thing 
I didn't find). 

Sheer shame and I thinking of your lovely letter drives 
me to write and tell you I can't. But THAT i WILL, sooner 
or later. Only one thing occurs to me, to my flighty 
unestablished mind. 

A : That I have never succeeded like you and J, S. 1 
in taking Yoga so seriously, as an approach to the divine ; 
in fact I don't think we ought : I agree with the word 
not the meaning of Plotty when he said It is for the 
Gods to come to me. 2 I can't think it desirable, even 
decent, in us to go hunting God : Fm a waiter : if He 
exists, in the ordinary sense, and wants me, He must yell 
for my services at his table. Not only the young but even 
the senilely decayed, in others words both X and SMK, 
are wasting their time and doing wrong in seeking to know 
any God, or be a God, or conciliate or serve a God ; it's 

1 James Stephens. 8 Porphyry, Life ofPlotiiw, c. xo. 



our present business, short of a clear call, to have and 
give as good times as may be, to be I mean, and make 
others, as happy as we can in all ways which our true deep 
instincts or our sense of wisdom, good sense, approve, or 
in all ways which neither instinct nor judgement con- 
demns. I remember fighting apparently the other side 
at Ringwood once ; but 'twas Apparently : 'twas against 
those that refuse to consider the fact a fact like a tree, a 
cow and a guitar and a day and death and dogs and bread 
and butter that there are sick souls whose activity seems 
to them a peril to the world or to their own sense of the 
right, people too whose deep instinct tells them rightly or 
wrongly that they should serve in that way a God whom 
they feel calling them. I add that I think in most cases 
this is the kind of people whose presence or absence doesn't 
matter a damn. They think they're seeking or serving 
God, and are seeking or serving their own uselessness. I 
think of Y. only as a mental discipline, the very queen of 
all ; one that certainly does give power ; a power that 
can be used as effectively to doing wrong as to doing 
right ; helps you keep your hair on when the plumber 
refuses to plumb, helps you to murder and rob an old rich 
man in a dark lane and get away with it, smiling ; many 
useful things like that. 

II : But I forget what the Ilnd was ??????? Or did 
I only promise you ONE? G. help me, I haven't the 
brain of a pig ; not a very good advertisement of his 
Yoga, says you. But you forget when you make those 
unkind remarks that I've been at it only about 40 years ; 
it hasn't had time to get its really fine work done ; come 
20 years hence. 

Just a memorandum, then, of me 

A thousand good wishes. s> M ^ ^ 

P.S. Please understand that all this is dead serious, my 
very finalest decision. I open this to add, ridiculously, that in this 


very hasty tappery I omitted what is to me the all 
important thing a thing to which all those notes of mine 
in the margins refer that it is a proved and invaluable 
method of (a) realising what one really wants to be and 
do (for good or for bad, " bad " which is one's real good 
to one's own true mind) ; and of (b) slowly (and not so 

d slowly) making, shaping oneself to that wish, to the 

more permanent wish as against the temporary, the 
momentary whim. 

I add, again, ridiculously, as if my notions mattered, 
so indigest as they are ! that it's my personal belief and 
experience that by this concentration and divining oneself 
one will always arrive at an ideal standard far higher (or 
at least far nearer to the conventional approvals) than by 
a policy of drift : one drifts into evil, thinking almost 
always points towards good : very few of us really want 
to rob that rich fat old man in the dark lane and smile it 
off successfully : we all, or nearly all, want to see him 
guzzle turtle soup and us chew innocent crusts out of his 




CORNWALL, ii May, 1932. 

x. Your letter warmed my old heart : one phrase 
touched me all but, no lie, all but to tears ; I wonder 
would you guess which. Dreadfully sorry for all exam- 
inees ; the one great joy of senile decay is that no one 
dares examine one ; it's assumed that one is either too 
wise or too doddery, neither of which can ever pass any- 
thing ; suits me because I never did be able to remember 
anything when anyone wanted to know it. What's the 
capital of the World ? Only when the examiner had 
marked me black, and I'd gone forth in disgrace and tears, 


would the keyword DUBLIN enter my head. Besides the 
mere fact that someone would some day be hurling the 
question at me would prevent me getting the thing into 
the poor head or the place where the head ought to be. 
A kind of subconscious protectivity I s'pose the psycholo- 
gists would call it. I can learn anything, except of course 
the guitar and the path to Heaven, so long as I needn't 
to ; make me and I'm dun done. 

So I hope you'll pass yours all right, and attain such 
grades and dignities and wealths that you can snap your 
pretty fingers at all fossilised professors and matrons and 
earnest people of all kinds and settle down to the wise 
good-timing which / assure you is the will of the Powers for 
you at your age. The older I grow (and somehow I can't 
help growing it every day) the more utterly pagan I 
become ; if it's pagan to believe in this world, this life, 
these (apparent) realities, leaving it to any powers there 
be to give that loud call they're very well able to if they 
have need of any one of us. Wisdom not virtue I pray 
for, or rather think for ; common sense to deal with ALL 
the facts or apparent facts as they appear. Smarrafak I 
equate Wisdom (or Common Sense) with Virtue, don't 
see that there is any Virtue whatever in laying down, 
especially for others, laws based upon supernatural things 
or appearances, when all we, the most of us, have to deal 
with, can deal with, is the natural order around us, pressing 
us from within and from without ; all I'd ever order upon 
young people, babes or adolescents or adults, is to seek 
out what they really wish permanently to be and, as you 
very wisely say, shape themselves to that ; the way to 
this is a desupernaturalised Yoga : as for the super- 
natural, it is by definition over nature, need not therefore 
be worried about while we are in nature, and is well able, 
being Over, to stick its finger in the pie and pull out any 
plum it has a mind to* 

Nothing by the way was ever better said than yours 
about the pill and the cloggy sweet ; I hope you keep a 

Stephen MacKenna at 60. From a photograph. 

LETTERS 1932 293 

note book and write down such things when they come 
to you : you'd have a splendid book of aphorisms in a few 
score years ; for that's not an epigram (which always 
drives me off my chump with rage) but a THOUGHT, and, 
as you also say elsewhere. Bloody well stated. 

I venture to think, thus I wander in mind over your 
plummy letter, that the cure for the sad machinery 
trouble is that we all take a hand ; that kind of work for 
say two hours a day would do us all good ; 'tis the 
8-hourness of it that's vile, inhuman, dehumanising : two 
hours severe and if possible monotonously meditative 
work a day, with infinite leisure after, is the very ideal, 
provided always that people, all, be educated not in the 
capital of the world and the rivers of Persia and Peru but 
in the art and joy of thinking : Another words, YOGA. 

Cornwall : ah one'd have to be an artist to tell it. 
Wonderful. Rather horrible at first sight : immensely, 
almost oppressively beautiful very soon ; utterly beyond 
me to tell it ; only don't let anyone imagine it a Riviera ; 
its subtropicality is a joke : but I'd have to be very serious 
to write about Cornwall : I will say, however, that it suits 
me so well that I'm annoyed I ever didn't go thither 
straight from Ringwood : my own little place is enchant- 
ing ; everyone says too that young and lovely as I was 
when I arrived, I'm ten or twenty years younger and 
lovelier after these few months ; in fact I feel so, and 
admire myself in the glass every day, seeing new streaks 
of a rich brown on my plump cheeks and a new radiance 
of combined benevolence and youthfulness in my beaming 
lamps. I'm like that old thing in Yeats' play, " Did ye 
see an old withered hag limping down the road ? No, 
but I saw a fine young queen " : or words to that effect. 

Which reminds me, whaf s that about the distinguished 
traitor of Plotinus ? I seldom read press notices, but that 
interests me because of a thing that happened : I was 
approached unofficially, Would I honour the official 
republican organ with articles and reviews upon current 


Gaelic writing : I replied that I'd honour it like old boots, 
for love or money whichever they preferred, but felt in 
honour bound to point out that my double apostasy 
from the only true church and the only decent country 
would tend to discredit the republican organ, since 
even in Ireland there are low dogs, and some of them 
might use me as an offensive weapon against the whole 
movement : since then I heard nothing : could any echo 
of this have reached London ? But it seems like asking 
was there a stop press on the streets to announce how 
yesterday I cleaned my entire orchard of a noxious weed, 
ten feet high, which in justice I add was like all weeds 
exceedingly lovely only a good deal too much of him ; 
the orchard looks hideous thus bared, but it appears I 
have deserved well of the community and also will eat 
apples and pears otherwise lost in the dense undergrowth ; 
what the devil I'm to do with all the apples and pears I 
can't guess : feed them to the pigs ? But I don't keep 
pigs. To the wasps ? But I don't love them. Hopeless 

Apples, pears, children : that's the progression : NO, 
I have no children here ; the houseen is silent, my grief ; 
I have to content myself with smiling at the dots on the 
road : but it's a fact that Cornwall is not a smiling coun- 
try ; the people all give you a grave greeting generally 
How do you do ? but seldom smile before the loth year 
of the acquaintance. I have just two friends : to both 
I'm teaching the guitar, or rather teaching them how to 
teach themselves ; 2 brothers, both very dear to me, one 
totally uneducated, save that he has a genius for 2 things 
which are also very dear to me, the radio and motor 
machinery ; he has built me a superb wireless set and has 
taken my pram to pieces and made it pull like a team of 
twenty horses, so that I roll quite roycely up the Cornish 
hills. Surely this is to be very highly educated ? If I 
learned out of books matters as difficult I'd be counted a 
learned man ? Also he reads books that frighten me : 

LETTERS 1932 295 

terrible books full of figgers and diagrams by the side of 
which Greek roots are as luscious as canned peaches; 
how is this not education ? My grief that I live in a 
world where such absurd ideas reign and keep people back 
in honour and in riches. The other is a small boy, 14, 
but more like 40, very grave, very musical, frightening his 
mother and his big brother, who visibly adores him, by 
talk of the futility of life and the advantages and methods 
of suicide, a boy who at 13 took (and came out first in 
Cornwall) an examination supposed to be for youths of 
15, and is withal very kindly, very affectionate, very 
stately in manner ; nothing, you see, like the darling 
rogues of boys and girls I had the good fortune to gather 
around my senility at Eldene. Over these I grieve still ; 
my sorrow that I ever knew them, the devils ; I feel them 
from me every day, as the Irish says. 

You, by the way, are the only one save the Dago 
Nobleman and one little rogue one Peter whom you 
didn't meet I think the only ones, then, that remember 
that I ever existed ; the D. N. wrote me that he had been 
ill and had been unable to write to you, but had luxurified 
himself in Portugal back to something like health and 
written at last ; goodness the admiration or affection he 
expressed : perhaps one should marry him and go live in 
Lisbon ? One would have to become a Catholic though : 
he always quotes to me the collect of the day, " I hope 
you noticed the lovely words, so rhythmical, so dark blue, 
of to-day, Lux mea Tu e$, domine : in te spes mea semper" 
You'd have to learn Latin, of course ; but there are 
worse things ; Latin, Russian and Irish are the 3 great 
glories of the human race, achievements, splendours, 
stars ; orchards ; symphonies. 

On which I stop (I don't know why) save to say that 
Fm touched to ... I said it before, by your friendliness 
to poor old me, and that with all my heart I wish you 
infinite happiness and will hope for all the years to come 
to hear from you to my joy and my gain. 


I have spoken of friends : I have one funny acquaint- 
ance : an old man as old as me, and he came to see me 
the other day and told me his griefs with these memorable 
words, " To think of all the affection and devotion I have 
given my wife, and now I'd like to bash her nose in ." 
Fortunately I didn't laugh then, tho' I do now. 

s. M. K. 




CORNWALL [July 8th, 1932]. 

x. So you're started in life : long joy to you. It's 
best so : you'll touch the real thing, be introduced to 
yourself, know the world, fight the real fight. Better than 
a suburban coziness with all that stodgy kindliness. Alas 
the poor of this world are worse off than animals, shape- 
lesser (so well I recognise the type in your drawing, which 
by the way strikes me as clever), iller, slavedrivener, 
respectabler, duller : as I grow mouldy and ouldy I 
become a non-statistical socialist or bolshevist or some- 
thing like that. Non-statistical because I haven't the 
least idea of the figures, i.e. of the working of economic 
laws or whether even there really do be such things. 
I pray for a smash in our time O Lord that, yet so as by 
chaos, there come, perchance, a better living for our 
brethren and sistern, now so ugly and sordidly plodding, 
who once were children and therefore gay and quick and 
sparkling, free in mind. Of course, I think part of the 
fault is with the poor themselves save that that very 
themselves was made by an environment which they 
didn't make they seem to me so dismally unrebellious 
and inadventurous : Gamborne, e.g., is tragic with miners 
and farm labourers standing whole days on the main 
street, drawing of course on what I understand it's untrue 

LETTERS 1932 297 

to call the Dole : anyhow, just subsisting, but with much 
less dignity than a lost dog: "Hello, Bill: Seen Jim? 
Going to keep fine ? Hullo, Jim : Seen Bill ? Going to 
rain ? ". I have been 40 miles on my pram and returning 
seen the same Jims and Bills on the same spot mumbling 
every 10 minutes the same sillinesses. A lost dog would 
at least snoop about for a hospitable dustbin, find an 
occasional find, rejoice, gleam at the eyes, wag a tail, 
fight with another dog, live. I hate, as you know, to talk 
about Ireland, but I remember when there was not a dole 
but a Poor Law Assistance or something and our people 
didn't take it, except the very old : the young went by 
the hundreds of thousands to far countries, to America, 
to Australia, and gradually brought out brothers and 
sisters, mothers and fathers and cousins and aunts. 

I know the world is closed now ; but the same spirit 
would invent something else, perhaps a general massacre 
of the likes of me, idlers, fatted capitalists riding prams to 
the public peril ! In any case what happens isn't human 
I spoke so to a young fellow on the dole, quite happy on 
I5/- a week : he repented, and to my great loss and grief 
has entered the police : did you know policemen are 
made out of ordinary human boys ? He now gets 55 /6d. 
a week (and he still in training) : an idea, why not make 
all those Dolemen policemen at 55/6d. a week ? Perhaps 
it wouldn't work ? 

I don't like your old man at all : he doesn't sound 
human. I don't know a thing with no paws and an im- 
perial. He seems to be interesting ; but had you had the 
decency to come to Cornwall I would have learned up a 
few stories for your entertainment. I do know a few 
already Puss in Boots, Little Red Ridinghood, Cinder- 
ella, and one about a bad boy whose mother told him not 
to play in the garden : this is rather sad for a while, coz 
he did go and play and fell in the stream and was 
drownded : but there is a bright bit : they fisht him out 
just in time to confess to a priest who came up in the very 


old Nick of time, and so he was absolved from this sin and 
died immediately and went to heaven or at least to purga- 
tory where he'll be prepared by a few thousand years of 
burning to enter eternal bliss, there to live in bags of 
vaseline and vests of halo. You see you needn't go to 
pawless imperialistic gnomes for stories. I could several 
more tails unfold that would freeze your young blood 
I forget the rest (see Shakespeare or Milton or some- 

I was angry when you said you wouldn't look for a job 
here : I was in difficulties over stringing a guitar do you 
know what a guitar is ? a kind of banjo, played with a 
plectrum after from 20 to 200 years practice stringing 
one of them and wishing for some mechanical sort of 
person to do it for me. I can't imagine why I should have 
to string my guitars and besides I can't ; they never 
keep in tune for me. I perceive I'm trying to be funny 
and can't : it doesn't comport with my years ; but I'll 
never attain to dignity ; the mouldier I grow, the fool- 
isher ; yet I'm direfully sober at heart, sombre ; my 
feeble little jokes are protective, as I believe the New 
Psychology has it : deep down there is a gnaw please 
pronounce the g : one reason I hate the British Empire 
is because people say a dog " naws " a bone and even 
go vfoiri dia orainn l that the bowwows of an aged tree 
are, go vfoiri dia orainn " narled ". Where's the twist, 
I ask ? " G-narled " : there is twistiness. O how I hate 
some things in this world. " A nat naws a nome ! " " A 
nomic utterance ! " " Gnomic " has a deepness, a dark- 
ness, a gloom not a loom as of eternity ! 

Well, as we were saying, deep down there does be a 
g-naw : what the devil is the whole thing faw ? Why I ? 
But such thoughts are not for youth and beauty and power: 
senile : save : save that a wise youth and beauty and 
power keeps just a twinkle of that thought in the far- 
offness of its self, that there may be, with the gaiety and 

1 Irish, "God save us." 

LETTERS 1932 299 

grace and fun, just a saving dash of serviceableness : the 
thought that the apparent futility of the world as it is 
given us calls for an activity of thought and of deed, 
towards making it a ween more tolerable to its masses 
nothing sure beyond, therefore mould the actual to some 
meaning and beauty and gaiety. God forbid we "go 
about doing Good " dreadful presumption, horrible 
tyranny but I have made a great discovery which I pass 
on to you for nothing : it is loathsome to try to do good 
to any single person, but most noble and necessary to con- 
sider the Good of the Totality : the problem is to leave 
the individual free, untouched by all our meddlesome 
goodness, and yet to reshape human life. Think of that 
for only a few years (till you understand it more clearly 
than I do), and you'll see there is something in it or 
perhaps isn't ! So, Good Luck and Great Success. 

s. M. K. 
Dear Peggy : I do wish you well. 





CORNWALL, October, 1932. 

D Y AND M : Sorry you have had all this trouble : very 
much obliged : of course your reply to Dr. Rouse was 
exactly as it should be ; I said much the same, save that 
I was probably severer on my own crimes against my own 

Infinitely kind of you to think for me : but Maecenas 
(who owns the copyright, of course) is dead set on the 
Loebisation. 1 Also I'd have to re-write nearly every line 
I mean quite apart from matters of Grecity or Plotin- 

1 Cf. letters 73-5. 


icity : re-write the English, which revolts me : me being 
utterly unable to understand how anyone can read it 
without vomiting which I could never do myself thanks 
be to God, me having some idea of what neat English is, 
what I don't like myself, preferring Irish or Latin tho' 
not pretending to know either not quite through my own 
fault which an old blighter got hold of me in my youth 
and innocence and no one knows what I've been through 
drudging and toiling and no one to help me or at least 
very kind friends but still in the long run you have to do 
it all yourself and you not up to it at all. But thanks be 
all is over : I have put away the things of this darkness : 
Pm forgetting Greek and English ; I play the concertina 
and touch the guitar and watch birds hophophopping and 
bobbobbobing about my placeen and wonder why the 
devil I'm in it or ever was. 

Dear Youth and Master I'm always wondering, too, why 
I never fully realised, or sought to return, what I owed 
to you, right through all those agonised years your un- 
failing, most generous, most valuable help. 

Long may you live : your Proclus I wish him well ; I 
shall not know him : I read nothing now but Irish and 
French English only for news of murders and what little 
light may dawn in me as to the dreadful social problem 
& propos de which, were I young I'd go forth as a militant 
and bombous socialist or bolshevist or something of that 
sort, with (I add for silly conscience' sake) a very powerful 
nationalist dash. Man's world such a putrid horror set 
against such a non-human loveliness slums and sordor 
against the rising and the setting of the sun and moon and 
spring and autumn not forgetting the sadder but delicate 
beauty of the winter. 

Well, God keep you, or at least all good be with you 
now and for ever amen. 

S* M, K. 

LETTERS 1932 301 



CORNWALL [? 1932]. 

MY DEAR AE, Impossible not to be moved, deeply, by 
your letter with its so flattering insistence J to say nothing 
for the moment of the confidential manner of it and the 
lovely poem. 

For the friendly insistence 'tis in vain. I gave you 
the dominant reason that I'm unfit : not of that rank ; 
not a creator, no imaginer, constructor, thinker ; as for 
style I'm so ashamed of my Plotinus that, quite tired of 
life, Pd yet wish to be 40 again to rewrite the whole thing 
not from the point of view of accuracy (to the Greek or 
to the thought) but for the style : I began on a vol. of 
extracts a Plotty made easy or Plums from Plotty sort of 
thing and I writhed over the loathsome things I found I 
had done. 

Thus I class myself doubly not of the rank. But there 
are other reasons which it didn't seem necessary to give in 
a sort of official screed. One : that all my life long I 
have hated publicity and all distinction : I'd not have 
signed Plotty had I had my way. Another : I wish well 
to English letters in Ireland and am proud of AE and JS 
and WB and Shaw and, more mildly, of Moore, and Pm 
glad to see a whack made at the ignobility and immor- 
ality of the Censorship ; but I don't wish to associate 
myself with an Irish Academy by the way I loathe the 
name Academy (French Academy or that kept at the 
corner of the street by Miss Amelia Birchington ?) with 
an I. A. that is mainly English. As I grow older and old, 
I vastly admire and greatly love the English, but more and 
more I don't want hoof of them or smell of them in 

1 ** A. E." had written urging MacKenna to change his mmd and accept 
nomination to the Irish Academy. 


Ireland : I grow furiouser and furiouser at what they have 
done and will do. The only Irish Academy I'd belong to 
would be one that won't take me, couldn't : it'd be one 
entirely Irish, Gaelic, not political but simply unable to 
understand subordinating Ireland to England or Irish 
letters to English. I have little faith or hope, though a 
fervent charity, in the matter of reviving Irish though if 
that be done I'd say Ireland would surely enrich the 
world but I simply could'nt take part in an only 
" Academy " not concerned mainly about that : " When 
the last Pope says the last Mass without an acolyte ", you 
remember so " When the last Gael says his last curse 
without anyone that understands ", then I'll join an 
English society. I wonder is it possible to make it plain 
that I'm not whacking at anyone, or even at the Academy: 
I bless the Academy ; mildly wish it well simply can't 
be of it something in me, something quite independent 
of reason (above reason or below it, what matter ?) simply 

Dear AE, I'm sorry if this seems censorious, seems to 
judge any of you, all my betters, all more useful far to 
Ireland : I see myself that I'm ridiculous : but then I'm 
Me, born to be so. Only this minute have I perceived 
quite how ridiculous : I gave you a reason in my first 
letter, and I started this later letter by saying that that 
reason was the dominant : now I perceive that my one 
fundamental reason was obscurely the motor cause and 
simply flung out the Rank idea (true in itself) as a God- 
nose-y cover for its nakedness. All which makes me more 
and more ridiculous and less and less Academisable. I'm 
in fact the least coherent being I have known in all my 
life : Ireland, as I under- or misunder-stand its rights and 
needs, is absolutely the one only enduring unification of 
my mind, except indeed another example of my inco- 
herence here except the Hindu or Buddhist Ahimsa as 
the sole basis and law of morals. As long as I remember 
I have had no deep care for anything in all the world of 

LETTERS 1933 303 

mind and matter but those two things : even as a devout 
Catholic kid I felt Ahimsa, without naming it, as envelop- 
ing and transcending all the dogmas, lessons and practices; 
and so in all the rest, in all of this world, I cared for the 
dream of an Ireland free and expressive. I'm suddenly 
tired not well hope to write soon. A thousand 

8. M. K. 

8 4 



CORNWALL [April 7, 1933]. 

MY DEAR x. Ridiculous procedure : Fm answering 
your letter without having read it : I muddled the 
envelope, gladly recognised, away in my kitchen while 
teamaking, went back to bed to sip my tea, horribly for- 
getting the letter. In an hour, when the world's warm, 
I'll get up the courage, and myself, to recover it. The odd 
thing not so odd in this rum and inexplicable world is 
that of late I have been often thinking of you, wondering 
where you were living your young life, faring how, step- 
ping up perhaps in your profession and dismissing your 
old friends. The world, rum and inexplicable, is full of 
such echoes from mind to mind : you were, without 
doubt, slowly elaborating your letter to me, and I got the 
whiff of it over the thousands of miles, or inches, that 
separate Midlands from Lands Ends. 

I mocycled the other day to that same, the End of the 
Land a lovely day, here at R. all gay and summery, bees 
and butterflies being and flying over the flowers ; there 
an awesome bleak desolation they tell me that later in 
the season it turns its bleak horroi* into a comfortable 
grandeur, but I was glad to leave it and get into smug 
spring countryside. I often think I have here the smuggest 


warmest spot in the British Island (not-s'you, now : you're 
only one Island now, since we have shook you off as the 
dust from the soles of our brogues) : when I leave my 
fields in a shirt I do be pining on the road for an electri- 
cally warmed suit with a kettle of hot tea on the floor of 
the pram or tank of the mocycle : there bes a wind outside, 
not strong but stingy (no : stingsome, having a sting), and 
I never did like stingy winds. Often I return and plant 
my little place shrubs and a few Woolworth seeds in 
50 years it'll look rich : already it is the prettiest little 
corner I ever inhabited. Had I not made a vow never, 
with the help of God, to earn another penny, I'd like to 
spend a few hundred pounds on titivating it : it could be 
made into a pocket edition of heaven. I have a field 
beyond my orchard which Pd like to plant entirely with 
Magnolias and make a tropical forest of it : do you know 
the Magnolia? At Falmouth there are scores each 3 
miles high and covered with flaming scarlet blossoms each 
the size of a cabbage or a small fat baby ; gorgeous the 
sight ; I think there should be a law making it a mortal 
sin, punishable by death, not to plant Magnolias. It's 
like the guitar I hope to read about your guitarplaying 
when the world will be warm not to plant Magnolias, 
not to play the Guitar, let no such thing be heard of. 

I often wonder, talking of guitars, what you think of 
your Ramsay now.* * * * But that's a foolish moment : 
let's leave him to his conscience ; he had one once : and 
let's get back to serious and pleasant things : I'm going 
ahead like old boots with the guitar : yesterday, playing 
to the thrushes and blackbirds as evening fell mild and 
moony, seated at the table I have between my grianan * 
and orchard, I noticed with joy and pride that I have 
gotten up to page 35 of my tutor pretty good going in 
only ten years. I can play 3 pieces, not of course by heart, 
one with 2 sharps and 3 notes at a whack (this however 
has a disconcerting flat in it which rather upsets one, but 

1 Irish, " sun-parlour." 

LETTERS 1933 305 

in a few years I'll have mastered that and go on to fresh 
triumphs). Funny how the sounds of the guitar pierce 
my soul ; I could never give it up : I hope this is true of 
you too ? I often get good guitar on the wireless Paris, 
Toulouse and once I heard from I dono where a guitar 
band (Argentine) whose velvety richness with passion and 
plaintiveness brought tears to my aged eyes : I often wish 
I lived in a civilised land where everyone plays the guitar 
from the cradle to the grave. Which reminds me, I know 
not why, that the other day I heard a thing I often 
dreamed of and it was as good as my dream violin 
with, don't scream, with harmonium. The double con- 
tinuity made a perfect thing the piano trotting under the 
continuous violin always enfuriated me : but indeed I 
loathe the piano : how much better the harps and clavi- 
chord : progress is often ruin, . . . 

Two hours have passed, and I got up, and your letter 
very gorgeous I ought to have typed this to be in the 
fashion, but I don't love the typer, mine never did know 
how to spell tho' it has written 5 vols. of stuff full of big 
words. But I think everyone should type letters almost 
no one but me writes a readable hand -just sticking a few 
illegible words in handwriting at the end to give the 
personal touch. 

My dear Xy ; why not write to Dr. Bertwistle, Preston 
Rd., Nr. Harrow, asking him to let you know if he hears 
(he is sure to soon or late) of some desirable jobplace ? 
He is the kindliest of men ; he is an authority ; he likes 
you (who could fail to ?), you have experience, are in a 
jobplace, not simply pining for one : soon or late he'd fix 
you directly or indirectly. Is there no professional journal 
advertising <c Wanted charming young lady to radio- 
logicalize millionaires : with knowledge of guitar pre- 
ferred " ? or " Charming young lady, with knowledge of 
guitar, immense experience in Radiologicality, desires 
meet diseased millionaire with no family and capable of 
making legal will " ? I saw in some paper the other day 


an advertisement which made me think of you : some 
nursing home asking for qualified Radiologist probably 
in the " Irish Press ", tho'. You might, I'd think, easily 
no, but actually get a travelling job aren't there 
ships with Radioists on them ? But I don't know anything 
I ramble I err- forgive my nonsense only don't lose 
heart, you are very young and very charming and very 
intelligent and all will be splendid yet. Probably you will 
get fixed in some London hospital where you'd be able for 
many hours a week to see life, make friends, go to shows, 
hear music, feel not stranded but swimming. 

You write wisely about disarmament and such things : 
seems to me quite hopeless : I was struck by a phrase 
wirelessly heard the other day, " this period of worldwide 
insanity " : but what is good is that while all the states- 
men of all the world seem mad, the plain people of all the 
world go on getting day by day in every way saner and 
more sane* I greatly honour the plain people : the more 
I look into their minds and lives the more I honour them : 
their one fault is their tendency to make the best of things, 
instead of making things over for the best : their content- 
ment or resignation is of the animal world sheep being 
driven, where they should be wolves pouncing. But I do 
think they won't go to war again in our time, i.e. for the 
next 50 years. Probably the statesmen know this, even 
hope for this, and keep their silly Geneva business going 
as a help towards keeping this on as a living force Geneva 
echoes thro' the world as a perpetual reminder that war 
is a mad horror ; its futile planning serves to focus the 
plain man's will. That is not clear ; but meditate it for a 
few months and you'll make it out a thing Fm too lazy 
to do. 

Listen, Excellence, I'm getting tired being old also 
the day has progressed, the sun is hot, tho' it is only gj I 
see : I'm going to plant some fuchsias ; in other words 
I dry up, only imploring from the powers every joy to 
you, and not merely imploring but assuring you ; you 

LETTERS 1933 307 

have everything in your favour ; you'll have a happy 
career and be a gain to the world and a joy to your little 

self this I swear o ^ rr 

s. M. K. 



[RESKADINNICK, April 22, 1933.] 

DEAR MISS x. You write a good letter : it's almost 
friendly. I enclose one that came with yours and might 
interest you, only you must m u s t RETURN IT. Pity : 
I didn't know you had a low taste for harmoniums I 
bought a beauty 15 'tother day and gave it away very 
soon to make room in my little place for a teapot and 
Buddha : you could have had it but probably the 
carriage would be more than the cost. 

I'd not " ask for a job " at all I'd ask does he with all 
his large contacts " know of a job." But give all your 
qualifications (plus a little). 

Why, my dear Miss Nunn, I'd be more than delighted 
if you ramshackled down here. Cornwall is really hideous, 
and full to the brim, and to the overrunning, of spots of a 
most rare loveliness. I'm not one of the last, but neither 
of the first : I'm within easy motoring reach of chops and 
steaks and slices and peelings of Heaven, and I'm pleasant 
where I am, looking over far fields and my own orchard, 
and having a lovely moon perched day and night just in 
the line of my pillowed head. Come in May, please, but 
come also when the magnolias I'm to plant in October 
will be grown and flaming, making a red road to hell of 
my placeen. I'm assured that they'll be in full glory of 
mass and height in only 50 years. 

I notice a guilty silence re guitar : Miss Nunn, is it 
possible that . . . but I daren't write it : no, no, not never. 

Space for meditation 


x. this isn't a letter : only a welcome with huge 
delight at the prospect. Pll dig you up soon and send you 
an advt. book on Cornwall hoping to confirm you : 
young people do be so fickle : they take up the guitar 
and drop it ; they propose Cornwall and shirk it ; they 
promise visits and then put their fingers to their nose and 
spread their thumbs or whatever you do to express con- 
tempt so long since I felt contempt for anyone that I 
forget the technique. 

A blessing on you, 

s. M. K. 




CORNWALL,, Aug. [l itk] 1933. 

DEAR MISS NUNN, Dear Mr. MacKenna wishes to thank 
you for your again letter, your fidelity, and to assure you 
that he appreciates all and will write as soon as the gods 
give him back a pennyworth of brains and the same of 
energy. For the present the poor little old lad just drags 
about like a wounded worm, paying huge prices for 
villagers to clean his 3 months overgrown garden, 1 buy 
him butter and tea, and mail his very few letters for him. 
But worms will turn, and he hopes to before many years 
are over, and he to be young and lovely again, spinning 
down the roads and especially up them (since C. is all one 
uphill like a church steeple) and in general behaving 
young and silly, which is much better than the Yoga- 
stance of the nonce (what is a nonce ? How many nonces 
in a day ? in a week ? in a month ? in a year ?). 

Dear Mr. M. K. wishes he'd hear of dear Miss Nunn 
getting her deserts tho* he wouldn't like his own and 
becoming rich and illustrious. 

1 He had just returned from a long illness in hospital. 

LETTERS 1933 309 

He begs forgiveness and promises that as soon as strength 
and life return he'll write for the moment, all corre- 
spondents must suspend sentence on him, striving to 
believe in his good faith and good wishes. 

S* M. 1C* 


[RESKADINNIGK] August, 1933. 

D.L. I'll hold back the Album till you return, full of 
wine and health and French and hopefulness and ideas, 
a pilgrim seeking strange strondes and ferne hollows couth 
in dam queer londes. Have you ever Ghaucerised ? 
Much of him would go lovely into Gaelic : not that I 
want it done. I'm thinking your French tour will be 
mighty good for your Irish and therefore for Ireland a 
part of whom must read you and be modified by you. I 
hope you won't be thinking directly of Irish : put it 
away : let the French soak in ; that's your service to 
Ireland. Not that anyone in his senses wants to make 
French the Human Standard but that French is the easy 
way to that Europachas, 1 to use your good word * * * * 

A trait in nearly all Gaelic writers : that their idea of 
what is in English impressive is just the thing which every 
good writer of English avoids like poison unless he means 
to be funny or, the same thing tother way round, to 
represent the funny speech of the half educated. 

In other words, " Epic Struggle " 2 is just the sortathing 
no one but an orator at the Christian Drapers-assistants' 
Debating Society Tea 6d. would permit himself to use. 
It is on a higher, no really a lower, level the same as 
that most curious phenomenon of the Gaelic taste for 
English slang : i.e. just when the English lords are giving 
up a form of slang we adopt it, saying " This precisely is 

1 Irish* " Europeanism." 

3 A Gaelic writer had adorned his prose with a literal translation of this 
cliche 1 . 


what we need if Irish is to be quite too-too and really up 
to date and definitely the thing." " Epic struggle " was 
once an invention and a good one, a little triumph : when 
it is so soiled that no one would use it even for purposes I 
leave to your imagination, then we stick it on a stick and 
wave it in the air and ask the world to admire us 
exactly like the negro chiefs, real or imaginary, who pick 
up, and wear as a crown, a European p p with a hole 
in it. * * * * 

I don't greatly care for the idea of translating (modern- 
ising) old Irish stuff : probably I haven't thought enough 
about it to be right in saying even that much. But I have 
always been a huge admirer, passionate, of the wonderful 
phrasing of the Bards there's a terseness and a clash about 
them that we sorely need in the literary Irish of to-day, 
which has no clash but is Melted Butter that beastly 
ce61 na cainte, 1 you know, no surprise, but a baby flow 
of the deja dit and toujours & dire. I reflect nearly every 
day as I read Irish that long ago (when Japan was a joke) 
I began a Freeman article " The little yellow men are 
rejoicing " ; and Brayden served it up " In view of the 
latest Reuter despatches from Tokyo referring to the 
celebrations inaugurating the new regime it would appear 
that the little yellow men etc." All the little sparkle and 
strangeness gone all is melted butter all squash and 
slob ... as level and as greasy as a flow of milk on a 
satinwood table-top. Beasts. A boy here quite incult, 
Stanley does better. " I heard her head strike on the 
banisters " (ambulance men were carrying her from home 
to hospital) " and I was so-rry : and I heard the men say 
c O she's dead ', and her mother screamed, and I was 
so-rry ". I wept when he told me this ; I never weep or 
thrill over anything in Irish it would all be laid out so 
flat and prim, like a man explaining his joke before he 
makes it and while he's making it and when he has made 
it : you vomit. * * * * s. M. K. 

1 " music of the common speech," a stock phrase in Gaelic League circles. 

LETTERS 1933 311 



CORNWALL, AugUSt '33. 

DEAR LADY, I find nothing whatever to suggest in the 
way of modification of your proposals. 1 As I have said a 
hundred times, I have utterly given up Plotinus : once 
you have Sir E. Debenham's permission you have all from 
this side ; the rest is your own judgement, taste, fancy. 

You'll inevitably notice places where all my agony 
couldn't eliminate the signs of translation : if you, coming 
fresh to the matter, can clear away these foulnesses, it'd 
be a gain (always understanding that you explain in 
general terms what you're doing and clear me of your 
guilt as of your merit.) 

Regarding title, I like none of those suggested. Were 
I doing the thing I'd spend a few years searching for some 
not-ignoble equivalent of" The Gist of Plotinus " some- 
thing suggesting that you had Beefoed or Bovrilised 
Plotinus (do you have those bottled beeves in America ?). 

Perhaps more attractive would be to postpone Plotinus ? 
" The Values of Life : Plotinus Beefoed." (By the way 
in subtitle I'd just as soon you didn't say " from the 
Greek " sounds to me sort of amateurish, or like a man 
saying on his visiting card that he never steals the spoons : 
it would to me mean, really, that Plotinus didn't write in 
Greek but in Arabic or in Irish perhaps, and I had found 
it better to translate a translation.) 

This is a very wandering letter : I'm just after a grave 
operation and still very weak and can't concentrate : I go 
to one point on which of course you'll exercise your 
freedom but perhaps not refuse to consider a point of view. 
It's this Intellectual Principle 2 business. Intellectual 

1 This American lady wished to make a popular anthology of passages 
from Plotinus in MacKenna's English version. 

*The term by which MacKenna usually rendered Plotinus J s vofa. 


Principle is a horrid word ; but so to me would be Intel- 
lect or, still worse. Intelligence. But to my mind (and 
I quarrelled violently with Dean Inge and others on the 
point) " Divine Mind," while not ugly or mean, is an 
abominable falsification. 

Plotinus sometimes (rarely) uses the words 6 QGLOS vov$ 
(literally Divine Mind), but never except where the 
" Divine " is a sort of compliment as if one, in Christian 
writing, spoke of " the Paternal God " or " the Adorable 
God, 35 " the Loving God," and the like. Where there's 
no question of rapturous praise the word is vov$ stark : 
vovs is the first knowable, at once Intelligent and Intelli- 
gible : it is Intelligible because it is the source and 
counterpart of the Human Intellect : to speak of" Divine 
Mind " does fatally falsely and sinfully, criminally, hang- 
ably, cover up this most essential doctrine, separating God 
and Man where Plotinus is precisely toiling like 10 devils 
to make them all but identical. 

" Mind " (capitalised) if you will : but not " D. M." 
(unless you will), 

" Spirit 9 * Inge used : I think this even more hangable. 
The French can use " Esprit " because of the double 
sense of esprit : so the German " Geist " : the English 
" Spirit " brings in Holy Ghost associations, the last word 
to me in criminal falsification. 

I believe but vaguely that if I were doing the whole 
thing again I'd labour over " Mind " stark and simple j 
in fact without looking at Greek or English I can't imagine 
the difficulty or understand why I didn't plump for it. 

Excuse me : Fm ill : I stop : if I think of anything 
else to say I'll write again Fd like to know you get this. 
All good wishes : respectfully 

s. M. K. 

I open to add another incoherence that I now re- 
member the difficulty I had with stark " Mind " : the 
only related adjective is " mental,* 5 utterly unsuitable 

LETTERS 1933 313 

mostly : whereas cc intellectual " had all the relations and 

Re Inge's " Spirit " : my main objection was not that 
mentioned, but that Spirit conceals and misleads con- 
ceals the teaching that the Good of Man is noetic, an 
affair of Intellectual Perception and Intellectual Act 
thereby ; misleads, proportionately (and gravely), by 
implying " salvation " rather than " rectification " or 
" orientation " a sort of dreamy merging, " Spirit with 
Spirit shall meet," rather than an active ratiocination in 
the first and most of the stages, though coming finally to 
a perception that somehow transcends even our highest 
philosophical verification of truth the other word, 
" Spirit, 35 seems to me to throw the door wide open to a 
whole system of belief and of action utterly contrary to 
all Plotinus means and wishes. 

Perhaps I may ask you to add to your remarks re your 
changes that " the translator " that's me " wishes, for 
conscience 5 sake, to make it clear that he holds firmly to 
his translations of vovs and of voyrd " : something like 
that : you'll find a neat way : essentially : those that 
get Debenham's permission can do what they like with 
the stuff, but they must distinctly clear me on this one 
absolutely cardinal point. 

Once more excuse my incoherence and slovenliness : 
I'm permanently tired, but also actually ill convalescent, 
which nurses tell me is generally worse. 

Once more good wishes, 

S. M. K. 

One more effort : The Good " salvation " is at- 
tained by way of philosophy, not by way of sanctity, 
except in that sanctity, or rather morality, is the condition 
of sound philosophy and is also indicated by philosophic 
thinking as the only wise worthy way. This is to my mind 
separated by mountains and oceans and Milky Ways from 
all that is suggested by the Divine-Minders and Spiriters. 




[about September, 1933.] 

A CHARA, Perhaps out of contrariety, I'm not disposed 
to blaspheme " Essence of Plotimis." l It has the obvious 
disadvantage of using k propos of a philosopher a philo- 
sophic term in an unphilosophical sense. But it does say 
the thing : Plotinus potted for the Potty (Potty is English 
if not American for the less intelligent of the brethren) : 
failing a better I'd say 'tis good. Should you write again 
and get no answer, the reason will be that I'm too ill or 
too dead : an operation a month ago has proven a failure 
and may be a prelude to a " Hence with Life's Pale Lure." 
I don't like Intellectual as adjective of Mind since it 
isn't : it doesn't connect the two peremptorily. But 
you're free as long as I'm cleared. 

You think too little of America or too highly of Europe : 
I suppose not one per million of Europeans has ever heard 
of Plotinus : people seem somehow to be able to live with- 
out him just as there are who don't play the guitar or 
keep a Buddha in every room : " a queer world, my 

masters." A , , . , 

A blessing on your work. 

s. M. K. 



DEAR x.-A line- CORNWALL, September, 1933. 

Fm not writing because I'm ill again operation a 
failure, a mistake I'll not go under another but be tran- 

1 This was the title eventually adopted. 

LETTERS 1933 315 

quilly ill either here or, if things worsen, at a nursing 

I'd not like you to think I of malice failed to write. 

All joy to you. 

s. M. K, 


[September., 1933.] 

Stephen MacKenna, Reskadinnick, Camborne, Corn- 
wall, is very thankful for Miss Nunn's friendly note, hopes 
she's playing the guitar and otherwise doing well Mr. 
MK. will write as soon as he'll be right enough : for the 
moment he's feeling and looking like the devil. 





[late Summer or Autumn, 1933]* 

OGANAI UASAIL, BE AGH-CHROi, 1 Aren't you the good 
soul with all your concern and kindly offers ! But 
there's nothing to be done. If you saw me you'd say, cry, 
roar " fraud." I look quite young and lovely and suffer 
only intermittently ; but the deepseated trouble is there 
au fort int&ieur, rongeing me beyond cure. An opera- 
tion, which with three months* treatment in hospitals and 
nursing homes cost me exactly one year's income and 
much misery, has left me as I was : je me r6signe and 
j'attends and that's all. Sometimes I can do more : a few 
miles on my pram to do my shopping and take the air. I 
learn to potter about my garden and orchard and to plan 
and make improvements in my pretty little house : I 
1 Irish, " Noble, goodheartcd youth." 


listen to curious things over Radio from London, Paris 
and Dublin : I read much Irish and a little French, and 
I write Irish with the idea, if I live and keep any courage 
and energy, of bringing out a slim vol. of essays " I 
says " which I think may be suggestive to my Betters in 
Irish Letters. I play the guitar or with it and love it 
and pity those that (i) don't know it or (2) having known 
it backslide (I have heard this incredibility : there are 
such : for this is a rum world, all sorts of rumosities lurk- 
ing in it and popping out where one least expex um. 
Having preacht to others one may become a Castaway : 
have you noticed das selbe, mein lieber Freund ?). 

Ni (however you spell it) chevo x is the final wisdom, 
and Fm fast becoming wise : in fact I nietchevo like 
anything and am not unhappy. Before I was quite re- 
signed I said to the doctor " But Docky dear " says I " I 
can't work." He gave me devastating, out of the simple 
kindness of him, comfort : says he " Dearest of patients 
you have DONE your work." Devastating comfort : but 
after times and a time behold you it did comfort me. My 
work isn't much, but it stands done : now on milk and 
eggs and with music and Irish I can idle and wait, in 
peace of conscience. 

I wish, only, that 2 people lived in some reasonable 
place yourself and Jamesy that I might see and hear 
you and with simple inefficiency play the guitar with yez. 

Good soul you. 

J S. M. K. 

All my homages to Madame and little Monsieur K. and, 
at your expense, one bonbon (but one very bon) to each. 



Dear Mr. MacKenna, Reskadinnick, Camborne, Corn- 
wall, mid. Oct. '33, hopes dear Miss Nunn will understand 

1 RUSS mchego (pronounced ** nietchevo "), " it doesn't matter." 

LETTERS 1933 317 

and believe that he isn't in the least thinking to hurry 
worry scurry or blurry her but writes purely out of his 
beautiful character with no ulterior motive, simply de- 
siring to wish her well out of her grecian misfortunes, 1 in 
fact to offer her merely his sympathy and to perhaps give 
her one moment's mild pleasure in the thought that she 
does be thought of even in places far from Harts Well 
Stoke on Trent which isn't for all its rather queer and 
possibly rather pretty name half so jolly a place as Reska- 
dinnick where at the present moment the sun shines and 
the blue sky gleams with that Cornwall gleam of innocent 
delicacy not to be met in many other places in a world 
which holds many lovely things on soil and in sky tho' 
indeed he finds it hard to believe that manywhere else 
there is so much joyous beauty as he at this very hour, of 
a Sunday morning, gazes out upon from his little bed 
wherein he has to lie much, the only thing he's capable of, 
because all the science of all the doctors hasn't been able 
to put him right and he often wishes they had put him 
quite wrong on that great opportunity when they had 
him completely in hand with his poor wits away and he 
quite content to be away with them, or without them 
since they never did him much good but enchained him 
to a dreary labour for which they were really not com- 
petent, thus sapping his youthful vigour and bringing his 
greying hairs in sorrow or rather in fatigue to where grey 
hairs go, a thing of which no one is sure tho 9 lots of people 
talk as if they knew all about it which is why he preaches, 
to no congregation, his own discovery of the only true Tao 
which is Chinese for Path and the dear knows a clear Path 
is the main thing man wants here below or above which- 
ever you like to call it, for as some sage said the Above is 
the Below and the Below is the Above and the Whence is 
the Whither, tho' he wasn't very clear as to where either 
the Whence or the Whither was so that in the long run it 
would seem that the best one can do is to have honestly, 

1 Miss Nunn had diphtheria. 


and give generously, the best time one can with one eye 
open on the Infinities and Sublimities and another peering 
sidewise at one's guitar and another still on all the beauties 
of the wonderful world which one strives to make more 
lovely still by such harmless devices as landscaping one's 
garden and opening a large window in one's dark middle 
room and making one's kitchen like a Dutch picture by 
prettily setting forth one's crockery with a Lord Buddha 
peeping out here and there, lest at any spot within or 
without the eye should fail of that image of noble thought- 
fulness and benevolence, the two most beautiful and valu- 
able things in all this quaint and incomprehensible world 
which however unfathomable must be in the end destined 
to good, fashioned for and out of good, since all its frame- 
work, and much of its inside too, is of so miraculous a 
loveliness, friendly and one must think well-wishing just 
as dear Mr. MacKenna is to dear Miss Nunn and would 
like to think she is to he now and for ever more Amen. 

S. M. K. 




CORNWALL, yrdNov. '33. 

MY DEAR TAVE, Will you kindly send a line to Bob to 
tell him, after absorbing it for yourself, that any time from 
about this day week all communication papers etc. 
will be suspended. Getting rapidly worse, I'm going to 
London for specialist treatment (not an operation : I'll 
never take another) . How long I'll be away I don't know. 
If the treatment seems to promise results, perhaps a 
month or more : if not I'll come back and die cheaply 
here. The local surgeon, who operated unsuccessfully, 
says I might well live long ; but in increasing misery, of 
necessity : I'd greatly prefer the death for which I was 

LETTERS 1933 3 I 9 

quite prepared at the time of the operation. You, I 
suddenly remember, think that morbid : me, not : to me 
it's a simple matter of fact, of values. I've got to die 
sometime ; the little work I could by temperament and 
ability do, is done : I necessarily slide downwards, and 
I have more than begun to slide ; a short slide and easy 
charms me more than a long and painful : et voila tout ! 
To me that's as simple, as non-morbid, a statement as 
that Health and Painlessness are better than Pains and 
Putridities or that Deep Sleep is preferable to grinding 
at an uninteresting mill. Of course if I could have health 
and no money-worry and power to work to complete a 
book in Irish I have been tinkering at : Horace's Satires 
I've been translating then I'd be glad to live : if then I 
didn't, I'd call me morbid. As things are, I call me 
rational, (When no one else praises me, I play fair and 
praise myself.) 

You notice I'm not saying any good-bye : I did before 
the operation I suppose or praps I didn't, but wrote only 
after ? Anyhow I'm not " in danger " now, as I of 
course was then : I simply announce breach of com- 
munication, lest yous worry or wonder. 

So all cordial good wishes to all 

S. M. K. 





Nov. '33 (I do date my letters). 

DEAR LADY, I wouldn't worry you again but that you 
are one of the millions who think I'm or ought to be the 
real S. M. K. : that has embittered all my life not in any 
disrespect to the Real S, M., but simply because it's 
horribly inconvenient to both of us. 

If I were not on my deathbed I could write you an 


amusing book on 30 years of this confusion the Real 
S. M, accused of my indiscretions (I'm, or have been, 
publicly and to the sound of trumpets a mad and mur- 
derous Irish Republican and he lives among English 
Duchesses *). I and my wife once took a furnished flat in 
London which we didn't know he had just left, and I 
opened in all innocence love letters to him from Coun- 
tesses and Queens : my wife once in Vienna nearly got 
deported as an immoral person for posing as the wife of 
" the writer " S. M., and he known not to be married, and 
so on an infinite budget of funny inconveniences. He's 
a good fellow, and has always forgiven me in lovely letters 
when I have had to write him excusing myself for inno- 
cently spattering him with mud. But I'm not a good 
fellow, and don't forgive him : for he has two sins : first 
he's called S. M., and secondly he misspells our lovely 
and honourable name, degrading it to a Kaffir click 
McK (! !), the noble Mac-ness and Enna-ness quite con- 
cealed Mac in Irish meaning Son, and Enna being a 
very great Chieftain or Duke or Toff of some kind in 
Ireland 2000 (2 thous-and) years ago (the k is adventi- 
tious to prevent the ignorant English calling us Masen- 
nas Irish is an intelligent language and has no K : we 
are in Irish MacEnnas). All which doesn't matter, ex- 
cept that it infuriates me, this perpetual confusion. One 
of the joys of dying to me will be the end of that. 

As for my death, the date isn't fixed yet : I'm leaving 
for London in a week to be specialised : local opinion is 
that I'm hopeless. I shall know in a month or so. 
A blessing on you and your work 


P.S. One more serious word : though I'm too ill to 

1 Mr. McKenna writes : " I do not live and have never lived among 
English duchesses. And I have never received love letters from countesses 
or queens ; this may be because my namesake had the good fortune to 
intercept them." 

LETTERS 1933 321 

phrase my feeling with any discrimination : my conscience 
won't allow me to pass as a Plotinian : I loved the work 
(except for the awful strain of it) but I was never con- 
vinced by the philosophy or the ethic of it : I'm a 
secularist agnostic : I don't know anything about the 
Soul or the Divine or Immortality or anything of that 
order, and I do believe in this life : I hate those who hate 
the world : had I children Fd try to lead them to love 
beauty, nobility, even what I vaguely call Spirituality ; 
but I'd want them to get and give all the good of the 
world, all the honourable or not dishonourable pleasure 
of it of course I'd want them to think and work out what 
is the real pleasure, what is the false, deceptive but to 
them> to themselves, not by any law of Moses or Plotinus 
or Daddy Stephen MackEnna. Plotinus and all the 
Mystics and Gospels of all the creeds are to my mind valu- 
able as corrective, as poetry, as suggestion, as windows 
opening on to vistas of the possible : as law, as dogma, 





Earljsh Nov. 33. 

PEGGY NU3*N, Above's 1 delighted to hear you to be 
young and lovely again, the way you ought to be. He's 
not. Evil men with knives and scissors are going to be at 
him again between 23 and 30 November, which he doesn't 
like. * * * * 

You give a ghastly picture of your place : I like my 
own better : it's improving slowly, but often I stop in mid 
toil and think how it'll soon be probably in other hands 

1 MacKenoa habitually wrote his name as well as his address at the head 
of his letters. 


and all my work undone my winter garden turned into 
cabbages and spuds (and very nice too), my shelves and 
other little inside tricks all pulled away. One thing is a 
permanent addition to the liveinableness of the world, 
my gorgeous new window in that dark middle room 
securing light and a green vista, a green thought in a 
green shade. Fd like to live to the spring also to see will 
a new hedge I have raised and planted come out as it 
should. Also Pd like to play the guitar a little better if 
possible (you 3 ve heard of the guitar ?) . 

Well Here's wishing you health and wealth and joy 
for evermore 6m chroi amach. 1 

S. M. K. 


Nov. 17, 1933.] 

A thousand thanks : I think I'd recognise your friend 
at sight from your double portrait : but you didn't tell me 
where the original lives or how. Well, we can't help that 
now : since I go very soon to my unknown destination 
whither, as I hope and believe I told you, no letters will 
travel from here. 

Here's a pretty thing : an old servant writes to me 
3 times a year : in my last answer I warned her I might 
not answer her next, me going to be operated. To-day 
she writes again and wants to know, " Will you excuse me, 
you being a great gentleman and me a miserable maid " ; 
this is the preface to the fact that she has only been able to 
save 20 in her, I guess 50 years of, life : but operations 
and illnesses are very expensive, and she knows I never 
could manage money, and if it would be of any use she'd 
take it out and send it in English notes and no one would 
ever hear a word of it. Now isn't that lovely ? Shows you 

1 Irish, " from my heart." 

LETTERS 1933 323 

there must be some good in me too, to inspire that 
splendid devotion : you'll excuse me mentioning it, but 
as people are apt to overlook my merits sort of find it 
hard to uncover them I feel it right to quote the evidence 
that they really are there. 

If I come out young and lovely as you assure me you 
are, Fll of course write : if I don't I won't, but you'll 
know I wish you well if there's any wishing where I'll be. 

So for the present at least goodbye X 

From your devoted friend 



WARD 2, 


LONDON, N. [? December 1933.] 

DEAR MR. COBURN, After one operation : a second is 
being continuously postponed moon in wrong quarter, 
Saturn adverse, etc. This is only to wish you well and to 
ask you to let me know in time should any move of yours 
upset the present ideal arrangement by which I can wash 
my mind of all concern over my vacant shack and its 
mingled junk. 

But do not on any account send me anything that may 
come, books, papers, crocks of gold, guitars or anything 
whatever. All papers, save the French Horrible which 
I hope you may read, should be burned as with fire, and 
all letters not obviously advertisement be kept in huge 
coffers for my return in the spring if so it be written in the 
stars. Many a dreary day and miserable night I have 
thought of the orchard, the birds, a spray of red rose 
berries against the blue Cornish sky. I hope you may 
sometimes have found pleasure in my grianan and the 

1 MacKenna's neighbour and landlord at Rcskadinnick. 



books not only there but all over the place. The Upper 
Chambers in their utter messiness have some buried 
treasure. I confess I'd like to know that Boy Arthur is 
doing well and my pretty baby Theodore and good Scout 

Not one moment of blue sky yet : sun sometimes, 
shining prettily on snow on roofs, but never once a gleam 
of blue : a red rose berry spray flung against a Cornish 
sky that with health and wealth and virtue and a guitar 
and a few thousand books what more does man want 
here below ? 

Be good and happy 

s. M. K. 



March 3, 1934.] 

DEAR PEGGY, I cannot resist : tho' I meant to see no 
one, not never no more. But you mustn't bring me any- 
thing whatever : I abhor grapes, am worried by flowers, 
can't read magazines. 

I'm greatly touched by your goodness, Peggy. Probably 
you could come any hour, simply arranging things over 
telephone with the Sister you know the ropes. 


Regular Visiting Fixtures : 
Sunday 2-3^. 
Tuesd. and Frid. 5-6. 

I wept when I got you 

S* M. K. 

What a howling swell of an address you have acquired 
go vfoiri dia orainn. 1 

i Irish, "God save us." 


[All numerals refer to pages] 

" A. K", xiv, 25, 36, 40, 41, 47, 

67, 84, 87, 179, 21 1/, 225, 

235> 245-7, 249, 288 ; letters 
to, 137, 163, 301 ; letters 
from, 140, 162, 208 

Aeschylus, 93, 105, 146 

Ahimsa, 278, 302 / 

Alexander, 212, 213 

Amiel, H, F., 45 

An Claidkeamk, 54 

Annals of the Four Masters, xvii 

Anthology, Greek, 227 

Areopagttica, 95 

Aristophanes, 105 

asceticism, 94, 277 

Austin, R. P., letter to, 269 

Becon, Thomas, 131 
Bennett, Gordon, 22, 23 
Bergin, Osborn, xv, 39, 70, 217, 

220/., 227, 230, 244 
Bertwistle, Dr., 305 
Best, Richard, 10, 13, 14, 18, 

221 : letter to, 183 
Bhagavadgita, 76, 139, 140 
Bible, log/., 241 
Biran, Maine de, 45 
Blake, 113 
Bodkin, Thomas, xv, 39, 69 : 

letters to, 142, 144, 158 
body, I25/. 
Bossuet, 96, 220 
Boswell, 5 
Bouillet, 151, 154 
Bourgeois, n 

Boyd, Ernest, 148 

Bray, Mary : see MacKenna, 


Brayden, 38, 310 
Br6hier, E., 2i3/. 
Brixton, g/ 
Broad, 228 
Brown, Rudmose, xv 
Browne, Father Patrick, 252/. 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 100 
Buddha, Buddhism, 73, 76, 79, 

85, 206, 239, 257, 271 
Buffon, 20 
Bullen, 36 
Butler, Samuel, 144 

Caird, Dr. E., 154 

Carlyle, 272 

Casals, 200 

Catholicism, 23, 65-9, 84, no, 
116, 123, 125, 164, 190, 201, 
203-7, 228/, 231, 239, 248, 
251, 256 

Ceannt, Eamonn, 50, 53 

C&estine, 32 

Chapman, 43 

Chaucer, 309 

Chesterton, G. K., 212 

Childers, Mrs. Erskine, 84 

children, 191-3, 262-4, 294^ 

Christianity, 21, 76, 104, 126, 
139, 147, 236, 260 : see also 
Catholicism, Protestantism, 
Quakerism, Unitarianism 

Clamart, 23, 32, 104 


326 INDEX 

Clan-na-Gael, xii 

Clarke, Austin, 50 

Clarke, Tom, 52 

Clonfert, Bishop of, 123 

Coburn, T , letter to, 323 

Coleridge, 100 

Collins, Michael, 168 

Colum, Padraic, 40 

Comte, 1 1 6, 206 

Conan Doyle, 236 

Conrad, 37 

Constantine, ijf. 

Corkery, Daniel, 2i4/ 

CorneiUe, 96, 106 

Criterion, 21 

Curtis, Edmund, 40, 50, 62, 67, 
72, 75, 148, 258 ; letters to, 
147, 180, 214, 216, 221, 223, 
225, 226, 229, 243, 252 

" Daly, Martin," 52 

Daniell, 230 

Davitt, Michael, 24, 50, 245, 249 

Deane, Elizabeth Mary : see 
MacKenna, Mrs. S. J. 

Debenham, Sir Ernest, 43/., 48/3 
56-64, 6 9 /, 72, 76, 79-82, 85, 
155^82,311,313; letters to, 
144, 150, 151, 153, 156, 157, 
159, 161, 165, 168, 175, 176, 
177, 178, 179, 182, 184, 189, 

Dickens, 265 

Dillon, John, 150 

Dinneen, Father, 220 

disarmament, 306 

Dodds, Mrs. A. F., 68, 69, 87 : 
letters to, 237, 238 

Dodds, E. R., 7o/., 80, 87/., 1 77, 
185, 2697. ; letters to, 188, 
202, 254, 266, 268, 281, 283, 


Dolgorouki, Prince Paul, 24 
Drucker, Amy, letter to, 149 

Dublin, xi-xvii, 7-9, 21, 32-46, 

48-66, 148 
Dumay, Henri, 22 

Eckhardt, 113 

education, 194/9 224, 294/ 

" Eglinton, John," xiv, xv, 76-8 ; 

letters to, 241, 250 
Elmassian, I2/ 
Emerson, 21, 213 
Enna Ceinnsealach 3 
Epictetus, 70, 84, 206, 221, 234, 


Epstein, 46 
Ervine, St. John, 216 
Eucken, R., 139 
Euripides, 105, 131 
Experimental Ethics, 20, 67 

Fenianism, 8, 10, 49 

Figgis, Darrell, 225/ 

Fitzgerald, Edward, 77 

Flaubert, 20 

France, Anatole, 20, 85 

Freeman's Journal^ xi, 33, 36, 38, 

49, 101, 118, 128, 310 
Fuller, Margaret, 272 

Gaelic : see Irish language 
Gaelic League, xiii, xiv, xvii, 35, 

37, 39, 122, 132 
Garibaldi, 4, 13 
Garvin, 172 
Geneva, 306 
Germany, war with, 47/, 57, 

H3 5 *45/, 150, 152 
Godfrey, 222 
Goethe, xv 

Gonne, Maud, 10, 13, 39 
Gourmont, R&ny de, 20 
Greco-Turkish war, xii/, 13-16 
Greek language, xii, xvi, 15, 30, 

99/> *6 
GribayedefF, 21 / 



Griffith, Arthur, xi, xiii, xiv, 50, 

1 68, 178 
Gwynn, Stephen, 107 

Hall, Henry, 73-5, 78/ ; letters 

to, 255,258,261, 262 
Harder, Richard, 43 
Hardy, 258 
Hayden, Count, 24 
Hearn, Lafcadio, 21 
Hebrew, 228/ 
Homer, 187, 241 
Hone, J. M., xv, 40, 46 
Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 34 
Horace, 84, 319 

Imitatio Christy 8, 229 

immortality, 88, 114, 134, 238, 
252, 27i/, 321 

Inge, Dean, 56, 257,3127. 

Ireland, 121-3, 125, 140/5 192, 
202/, 211,227; Easter rising, 
49-53 ; conflict with England, 
57, 59/j r 59-62 ; treaty with 
England, 60-2, 165-77 ; civil 
war, 176, 178, 179 ; Free State, 
62, 82, 215, 222, 242/. 

Irish Academy, 82, 202 /., 301 / 

Irish language, xiv, xvi, 37, 61, 
83/-, 99, "7> X 3 2 , 2i5/, 
217-20, 229/, 233/, 243, 253, 


Irish Literary Society, 10 
Irish Nationalism, xiv, 5, 8, 35, 

47, 107, 116, 117, 131, 133, 


Johnson, Lionel, xi 
Jonson, Ben, too 
journalism, 9/1, 21-35 
Joyce, James, 34 
Judaism, Jews, 202, 203/3 220, 
230, 239 

Kapetanaki, Panagiotes, i6/ 

Kellys, Aliaga, 3, 8, 225 

Kelly, Ambrose, 29 

Kelly, William, 52 

Kempis, Thomas a, 113 

Kiefer, 154 

Killeen, Miss, I93/ 

Koran, 190, 206 

Kraminsky, Victor, letter to, 315 

Kreisler, 212 

Lane, Sir Hugh, 38 
Lawrence, D. H., 34 
Lewis, Wyndham, 34, 24 if. 
Liverpool, 4 
Lloyd George, 170 
London University, 6 
Long, Colonel, igs/ 
Lynch, Arthur, xv, io/, 13, 21, 
23, 32, 47> 1 06 

MacColuim, Fiondn, 35 

MacDonagh, Thomas, 40, 50, 52 

MacDonald, Ramsay, 304 

MacDowell, xiii 

McGreevy, Thomas, 224, 239 

Mackail, J. W, 154 

MacKenna, John (senior), 3 

MacKenna, John (junior), 244 

MacKenna, Miss Katie, 5-8, 179, 

MacKenna,, Miss Lizzie, 5-8, 63, 
64, 70, I92/, 197, 2oo/ 

MacKenna, Marie (Mrs. Stephen 
MacKenna), xiii, 22/, 46/, 
57/, 60, 62/, 145, I47/, 
1 79-81, 182-4, 189, *93> *96> 200 

MacKenna 9 Myles, 9 

MacKenna, Octavian, g/, 65, 
76, 152 ; letter to, 318 

MacKenna, Robert, 2, 5, 65, 75, 
86, 196-9,318 ; letters to, 181, 
187, 200,203,205,228 

328 INDEX 

MacKenna, Mrs. Robert, letter 

to, 191 
MacKenna, Captain S. J., xiv, 

MacKenna, Mrs. S. J., 4, 70, 73, 
182, 205, 231, 236 

MacKenna, Theobald (pam- 
phleteer), 3 

MacKenna, Theobald, Q,.C., 3 

MacKenna, Theobald (journal- 
ist), 9/., 70, 85 

McKenna, Stephen (novelist), 
25* 3*9 f- I letters to, 245, 247, 
249 ; letter from, 246 

MacKenzie, Compton, 21 if. 

Magee, W. K. : see " Eglinton, 

Marinetti, 46 

Maude, Aylmer, 245-7, 250 

Memories of the Dead, 37, 50, 52 f 

MenexemiS) 30 

Meredith, 131 

Meyendorf, Baron von, 24 

Milton, 96, 1 1 8, 131 

Mitchell, Dr. T. W., 45, 47 

Mitchell, Miss, 208 

Moliere, 96 

Montaigne, 96 

Moore, Colonel, 222 

Moore, George, 69, 78, 301 

morality, 113, H5/., 275-8, 292, 

299> 32i 

Morley, Lord, 172 
Morris, William, 131 
Mueller, H. F., 154 
music, 70-2, 79/., 159, 244, 265, 

mysticism, 20, 67, 102, 104, 113, 

Neoplatonism, 104, 257 : see 

also Plotinus 
New York, xii, 21 
New York Herald, S2, 23 

New Tork World, 23, 31, 33, 107 

Nietzsche, 20, 60 

Norris, Frank, 131 

Northrop, 107 

Nunn, Margaret, 73/., 787., 86, 
89 ; letters to, 264, 271, 274, 
279, 285, 289, 291, 296, 303, 
3<>7> 308, 3*4, 315* 3i6, 321, 
322, 324 

Nunn, Mrs., 258, 271 

O'Briain, Mfcheal, 132 
O'Brien, Miss Nelly, 222 
O'Brien, William, 169 
O'Conaire, Padraic, 84, 217-20, 


O'Connor, T. P., 4 
O'Donoghue, T. P,, 14, 21 
O'Gallaher, 229/. 
O'Leary, Canon, 131, 21 jf 
O'Leary, John, 10,50 
O'Meacin, Peadar, 52 
O'Rahilly, Aoghan, 54 
O'Rinn, Liam, 83, 86, 279; 

letters to, 231, 242, 284, 286, 


O'Sullivan, J. A., 14, 16 
" O'SuUivan, Seumas ", xiii, 40, 


Oldham, 225 
Ouida, 21 

pacifism, I2O/., 152, 178, 179, 


Page, B. S., 80, 267/1, 281 
Page, Dr. T. E., 82, 83, I53/, 


Paris, 10-13, 1 8, 21-32 
Pater, 21, 100 
Patey, Miss, 226 
Pearse, Padraic, 50, 52 
Pfitzner, Hans, 22 
Pindar, xvi, 30, 105, 106 
Plato, 21, 100, 105, 163 



Plotinus, MacKenna on, 6g/., 
311-14, 321 ; MacKenna's 
translation of, xvii, 30-83 
passim, 105, io6/, 114, 116, 
117, letters passim 

Plunkett, Sir Horace, 145 

Porphyry, 144, 289 

Protestantism, 67/., 190, 202, 
203-7, 228/. 

Pulitzer, Joseph, xii, 23, 3i/. 

Purser, Dr., 230 

Quakerism, 257 
Quincey, de, 100 

Ramsgate, 5 

Ratcliffe College, 5/. 

reHgion, 113, ii9/., I23/., 201 /., 
257/, 259/-, 27 1/, 275, 2787, 
321 ; see also Buddhism, Chris- 
tianity, mysticism, Yoga 

Renaissance, 113 

Rhada-Knshnan, 264 

Rockefeller, J. D., 22 

Rodin, 22, i84/ 

Rosmini, 113 

Rothenstein, W., 184 

Rouse, Dr., 195, 299 

Ruskin, 164 

Russell, George : see " A. E. " 

Russia, 24-9, 87 

Schopenhauer, 20, 98 

Seneca, 206 

Sergius, Grand Duke, 25-9 

Shakespeare, 106, 127 

Shaw, G. B., 301 

Shorter, Clement, 249 

Sidney, 93 

Simson, Spicer, 22, 32 

Skeffington, Sheehy, 50 

Smith, Sydney, 205 

Snaith,J. C , 144 

socialism, 66, 87 /., 2967., 300 

Sophocles, 6, 84, 105, 131, 2527. 

Speaker, The, 12 

Spencer, Herbert, 234 

Spicer, Lady Handley, 184 

Squire, Sir John, 6, n, 33, 46, 
82, 281 

Stephens, James, 40, 41, 47, 65, 
7* 76, 79. 136, 14, 148, 215, 
216, 224, 248, 253, 262, 280, 
289, 301, 316 

style, 20, 34/., 94-7, 98, ioo/., 
109, "3/5 "7 121, 124, 
126-9, 147, 200, 232-4, 310 

Swinburne, 48, 131 

Synge, J. M., xv, 11-13, 36, 38/. s 

114, 122 

Synge, Mrs., 22 

Taaffe, 3 
Tagore, 210 
Taylor, A. E., 236 
Taylor, Thomas, 149 
Tennyson, 273 
Thomson, George, 837., 288 
Thoreau, 2 1 
Thucydides, 250 
Tolstoi, 24/., 120, 245-7, 249-51 
translation, 43, 84, 153-6, 241 
Trepof, 24 

Turnbull, Grace, letters to, 311, 
314, 319 

Unitarianism, 75/., 238-40, 248, 
., 282 

Victoria, Queen, 71, 141 
Virgil, 6 

Wagner, 60 

Warner, Lee, 56, 145, 153 

Weekly Freeman, 14 


Wells, 156, 212 
Wesley, 69 
Whitman, 20, 130 
Wilamowitz, 43 
Wimborne, Lord, 252 
women, 288 
Wordsworth, 114, 233, 265 


Yeats, Jack, 71 

Yeats, W. B., xii, xiv, 38, 41, 82, 

122, 131, 208, 235, 248, 293, 

Yoga, 20, 76, 1 06, 113, 289-91, 

292, 308 
Young Ireland, 10